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Election 2024 Government & Politics

It isn’t just the bottom line: 6th District fundraising numbers reveal a lot

April McClain Delaney has entered the 6th District Democratic primary. Campaign photo.

At a most basic level, candidates’ campaign finance statements provide a snapshot into the fundraising prowess and financial well-being of a particular campaign.

But a deeper dive into these dense and numbers-laden documents can also reveal truths about a candidate’s lineage and strategy, the circles in which they travel, and their worldview.

In the latest campaign finance reports from Maryland’s 6th congressional district, an open seat due to U.S. Rep. David Trone’s decision to run for Senate this year, the bottom line numbers from the last three months of 2023 show April McClain Delaney, a lawyer, philanthropist and former U.S. Commerce Department official, far ahead of the rest of the Democrats.

And those figures, released this week to the Federal Election Commission, suggest she may be the only contender in the 12-candidate Democratic field capable of running a full-service campaign with aggressive paid media and a full team of seasoned operatives and consultants. That could be important for the general election — and the fight for control of Congress — because the 6th is the lone competitive congressional district in Maryland.

But money isn’t everything — and in an evolving field in an ever-changing Democratic Party, the finance documents of some of Delaney’s opponents show some surprising strengths and potential. And Delaney’s report, despite the evident fundraising strength, may divulge some not-so-hidden weaknesses.

A quick glance at the figures show that Delaney, the wife of former U.S. Rep. John Delaney (D), who held the same seat from 2013 to 2019, raised $536,537 from late October, when she joined the race, until Dec. 31, the end of the reporting period. She finished 2023 with $482,111.99 in her campaign account, after spending $54,445.01.

But $118,900 in her war chest at the end of December cannot be used for the primary, because it represents contributions from individuals that exceeded $3,300 apiece — the maximum contribution allowable for a primary election. There’s an additional $3,300 limit on general election donations. Still, that funding will come in handy if Delaney wins the primary.

Significantly, Delaney did not put in a dime of her own money, as many of her opponents and political professionals expected — though her campaign advisers have acknowledged that she could choose to “invest” in her campaign down the line.

“With strong supporters and a dedicated team, I look forward to continuing to connect with voters and to winning this race in the months ahead,” Delaney said about her fundraising to date.

A politically unknown self-funder finished 2023 second when it came to cash on hand at the end of 2023: Geoffrey Grammer, a psychiatrist and retired Army colonel, reported $372,083.58 in his campaign account as of Dec. 31. He has raised $72,042.04 since becoming a candidate — and put in $439,688.94 of his own money so far.

“This FEC filing underscores that our movement is highly competitive and well-positioned to win Maryland’s Democratic primary on May 14th, 2024,” Grammer wrote in an email to supporters this week.

Part of Grammer’s campaign message: “Congress needs a psychiatrist.”

Del. Joe Vogel (D-Montgomery) continues to raise money at a steady clip. He finished 2023 with $195,205.86 in the bank, after raising $126,942.94 in the last three months of the year. Overall, he raised $379,755.91 since becoming a candidate.

And the fundraising of Hagerstown Mayor Takesha Martinez continues to defy expectations. Relying almost exclusively on small donations, Martinez has raised $167,799.82 in the last quarter of 2023 and $321,877.67 since joining the race. But she’s been spending money pretty liberally too, and finished the year with $124,225.60 on hand.

Delaney’s fundraising shows that she has plenty of institutional support, with donations from prominent Washington, D.C., business and civic leaders, lawyers, political figures and philanthropists. Among her contributors: Ron Klain, who until recently was President Biden’s chief of staff (he donated $1,000); tech entrepreneur Raul Fernandez and his wife Jean-Marie Fernandez ($6,600 each); David Bradley, business mogul and publisher of The Atlantic, and his wife, Katherine Bradley, who is the chair of the KIPP Foundation, an educational reform organization ($6,600 each); Lisa Collis, a philanthropist and wife of U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), who gave $6,600; Robert Trone, the brother and business partner of the man Delaney is trying to succeed, and his daughter Sophia Trone, a college student ($6,600 each); U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), through her Wolverine Political Action Committee ($1,000); former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue ($3,300).

What’s mostly missing from Delaney’s campaign finance report is contributions from within the 6th District. Her report shows no contributions at all from the four westernmost counties in the district: Frederick, Washington, Allegany and Garrett — though it does show $2,156 in unitemized donations, so some of those could have been from small donors in those counties.

The document actually shows just one contribution, for $1,000, from an identifiable District 6 address, in Damascus, a community in northern Montgomery County. There are several contributions from Potomac, where Delaney herself lives; some Potomac addresses are in the 6th District, but every one of Delaney’s contributors from Potomac appear to live in the 8th District, represented by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D), according to a House of Representatives search engine for addresses.

It is possible that there are other donors who live in the 6th District but used business addresses for their contributions.

Vogel, a 27-year-old state lawmaker, seems to be benefiting from his youth and his status as an openly gay, Jewish Latino who came to the U.S. with his parents from Uruguay when he was 3 years old. Latino organizations and groups that back LGBTQ+ candidates are among his most reliable donors.

Martinez, who is running as a grass-roots progressive, has raised so much money from small donors that  she reported $130,242.42 in unitemized donations in the last quarter of 2023 — meaning dozens of contributions didn’t reach the $200 threshold required to be included on the Federal Election Commission report. The campaign said it had 7,581 donors in the last quarter, each giving $22.13 on average.

Martinez on Friday also picked up the endorsement of the Higher Heights Political Action Committee, which supports Black women running for office.

“I am incredibly proud to be endorsed by Higher Heights, and join a cohort of Black women who are running authentically to serve their communities,” said Martinez said. “The electoral system, like so many other systems, was not built to serve communities like mine. That is why it is critical for organizations that want to build power for working-class communities or candidates of color to endorse early and invest, just as Higher Heights has done.”

Some other Democratic candidates’ FEC totals were surprisingly low.

Del. Lesley J. Lopez (D-Montgomery), who had a stint atop the legislative women’s caucus in Annapolis, reported raising $28,986.74 between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, and ended the year with $30,345.34. Overall she has raised $133,335.72 for her congressional bid.

Joel Rubin, a former Chevy Chase town councilmember and longtime foreign policy analyst and official in Washington, D.C., raised $25,790.99 in the last quarter and banked $32,480.67. He reported raising $112,350.99 overall since becoming a candidate.

Montgomery County Councilmember Laurie-Anne Sayles (D) finished 2023 with $8,672.49 in the bank after raising $23,204.11 in the last quarter and $50,013.22 since the campaign began.

GOP fundraising: Royals flush 

Despite the presence of former Del. Dan Cox, the 2022 GOP nominee for governor, in the race, Tom Royals, a Navy veteran and business development manager, led the way on the fundraising front for Republicans seeking to replace Trone.

Royals ended 2023 with $95,388.20 in the bank after raising $132,552.01 in the final months of the year. He raised $292,935.01 overall during the year.

Cox raised $71,004.95 since becoming a candidate in the fall and ended the year with $59,296.63. His take included a $3,000 loan.

Chris Hyser, a retired state trooper, actually ended the year with more cash on hand than Cox, $64,814.99, though he has been self funding his campaign to an extent. Hyser’s campaign took in $36,641.83 in the last months of 2023 — $29,441.83 from his own pocket. Overall he has raised $86,373.85, including $62,627.85 of his own money.

Mariela Roca, a medical logistics specialist and Air Force veteran, was sitting on $31,320.32 at the end of 2023 after raising $65,113.90 in the last quarter and $165,889.11 overall.

Former Del. Brenda J. Thiam (R-Washington) raised $2,512.24 in the final quarter of 2023 and $26,733.44 since becoming a candidate — $13,450 from her own pocket. She had $11,383.94 on hand at year’s end.

Former Del. Neil C. Parrott (R-Washington), the two-time GOP nominee against Trone, continued to raise and spend money through his 2024 exploratory committee, though he has yet to formally declare himself a candidate for this election. He had $41,920.53 in the bank after raising $38,109.97 in the last reporting period and $151,549.26 through the election cycle thus far.

Parrott — and anyone else — has until Feb. 9 to decide whether to enter the race.

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It isn’t just the bottom line: 6th District fundraising numbers reveal a lot