If the nature of the mismatch in the 6th District congressional race can be captured in a single image, it's a dollar sign.
Six-term incumbent Beverly B. Byron has a mountain of money, compared with the molehill collected by Republican challenger Christopher P. Fiotes Jr., according to campaign expenditure reports filed by the candidates last week with the Federal Election Commission in Washington.
The required reports cover Aug. 23 to Sept. 30. During that period, Byron gathered $16,783 and doled out $28,632. That's not a great deal by congressional campaign standards, but it's a veritable king's ransom compared to Fiotes' election finances.
Fiotes, a businessman from Gaithersburg, Montgomery County, took in $840 and spent $782 on campaign expenses since late August, his five-page report shows. Byron's covers 28 pages.
A comparison of the candidates' finances back to Jan. 1, 1989, further illustrates the financial abyss between the two.
Byron, who easily defeated sole challenger Anthony P. Puca in the September primary, has raised $244,786 and spent $276,957, and she has $45,227 on hand, records show.
Fiotes, by contrast, has taken in a mere $2,006 and has spent $1,685 since January 1989. He has $320 on hand, the report shows.
Most of Fiotes' money has come from his own pocket or from family members. In fact, a $50 contribution Fiotes received recently was the first to come from someone outside his immediate family.
But the financial disparity doesn't necessarily reveal an inability on Fiotes' part to raise money, said Stella Fiotes, the candidate's wife and campaign manager.
Instead, Fiotes, who made an unsuccessful run at a state Senate seat in 1986, is eschewing the big money and influence of special-interest groups that he says is ruining government.
As part of his campaign approach, Fiotes has refused to accept money from political action committees. That's borne out in the report, which lists a zero in the entry for PAC contributions.
"He said from the beginning that's what he was going to do, and he's stuck to it," Stella Fiotes said yesterday. "Although (accepting PAC money) did get tempting at some points."
Byron's report shows that more than two-thirds of her money came from political action committees. As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, Byron received several contributions from major defense contractors, such as Grumman Corp. and McDonnell Douglas Corp.
Fiotes' self-imposed limits on financing have not been without their drawbacks, his campaign manager said.
"It's a problem as far as getting out the name recognition," Stella Fiotes said. "Our opponent has tremendous name recognition, and fighting back is very difficult.
"But he (Fiotes) feels that the only way for Congress to get its act together is to stop depending on special-interest groups for financing," she said.