Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley and Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. each raised more than $3 million this year, their campaigns reported this week.
Ehrlich, who released his figures Friday, said he had about $2 million in the bank as of the end of the reporting period Wednesday. O'Malley said he had $6.7 million in available cash. Both said they were pleased with their numbers and feel well-positioned for the Nov. 2 general election, though each must make it through their party's primary next month.
The campaign statements offered the first look since January at the finances of the gubernatorial front-runners.
On Tuesday, the State Board of Elections will release official reports for O'Malley and Ehrlich, as well as other gubernatorial hopefuls and the hundreds of candidates seeking state legislative seats and local offices. The reports will detail how the candidates — including O'Malley and Ehrlich, who have been neck and neck in many recent polls — are spending their money.
O'Malley, who had $5.7 million at the beginning of the year, appears to have spent about $2 million, including on television and radio spots. Ehrlich, who didn't make his gubernatorial bid official until April, started the year with $140,000. He has spent more than $1 million so far, and although he has not purchased airtime to broadcast commercials, he has maintained an active online ad presence. Both have blanketed the state in pricey lawn signs.
Each candidate claims more than 13,000 individual donors. The state has twice as many registered Democrats as Republicans, a dynamic that often translates to a financial advantage for Democratic candidates.
The Maryland Democratic Party said Friday that it has raised about $1.5 million this year, better than double its Republican counterpart. Democratic Party spokesman Isaac Salazar said his party's fundraising totals reflect that O'Malley has "momentum heading into the final months of the campaign."
The Maryland Republican Party raised more than $600,000 this year, spokesman Ryan Mahoney said. "We've come a long way as a party," he said, and added that the party's debt has been erased.
A hunk of the state party money will go to federal races, including to the campaigns of Democratic Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski and the dozens challenging her, and to the heated rematch between Democratic Rep. Frank Kratovil and state Sen. Andy Harris, the Republican trying to unseat him.
But even money marked federal can be used to help state candidates, as long as there's a federal tie. For example, a party-funded Baltimore County rally could include Kratovil and O'Malley.
This week, the Republican National Committee announced that its "Victory Campaign," a fundraising and voter turnout effort, will include Maryland.
Four years ago, when their roles were reversed, O'Malley, then mayor of Baltimore, collected about $3.4 million in the first reporting period of 2006. This year, when he was prohibited as governor from soliciting donations during the three-month legislative session that ended in April, he reported raising $3.3 million
Ehrlich, who fell under that prohibition as governor in 2006, raised about $2.4 million in the first reporting period that year. This year, he reported raising $3.2 million.
At this time in 2006, Ehrlich had raised $8.5 million, compared to O'Malley's $5.1 million.
Some political observers said Ehrlich must dial up his fundraising effort, suggesting that Republican stars — perhaps former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who campaigned for Ehrlich four years ago — are needed for emphasis.
"Come the final two weeks, Ehrlich has got to find himself with significant cash resources to tap for the get-out-the-vote effort and TV ads," said Todd Eberly, acting director of the Center for the Study of Democracy at St. Mary's College. "He doesn't want to find himself unable to compete at the last minute."
Eberly, who said he is a nonpartisan researcher who has never worked for a political candidate, said O'Malley's threefold advantage in cash could have an unwanted "psychological effect" on Republican donors, particularly at a national level.
"Between the Democrats' natural advantage and Ehrlich's cash on hand trailing, [donors] may say, 'This may not be the election for us to invest in.' They might decide to spend their money somewhere else. He's got to worry about that."
Ehrlich's longtime fundraiser, Richard E. Hug, said the former governor never expected to have the financial advantage at this point in the election, given that he is facing a sitting Democratic governor in a blue state.
"We're raising a significant amount of money, and we will have sufficient funds," Hug said Friday. "But it's not all about cash. Last time, we outraised O'Malley significantly and still lost."