By LETICIA LINN, Capital News Service
WASHINGTON - The three Maryland candidates for the U.S. Senate have raised $13.3 million since the race began, according to their latest financial campaign reports, and they have more than $3.5 million left to spend before the Nov. 7 election.
Republican Lt. Gov. Michael Steele had more than $2 million in cash on hand, leading Democrat Rep. Ben Cardin by more than $400,000, according to campaign finance reports they filed for the Federal Election Commission this past weekend.
Steele raised around $1.28 million during the third quarter of the campaign finance season that ran from July 1 to Sept. 30. That brought his total to about $6.47 million. Most of the money his campaign raised this period—around $1 million, came from individual contributions, while more than $240,000 came from political action committees.
Democratic candidate Ben Cardin, who won a tough primary election in September against former congressman Kweisi Mfume, had almost $1.6 million in cash on hand, according to his report.
Cardin collected more than $1.2 million this period, for a campaign total of $6.78 million, the most of the three candidates in the general election.
Cardin's cash this period also came mainly from individual contributions—around $959,000—although he raised $258,000 from PACs.
The third candidate in the general election contest, Kevin Zeese, who is running on behalf of the Green, Libertarian and Populist parties, had $9,644 in cash on hand at the close of the reporting and raised just $13,637 in this quarter, bringing his campaign total to $57,906.
Zeese gathered almost all his campaign funds from individual contributions, and unlike his rivals, he did not receive any contributions from PACs.
"I am running a campaign of ideas, not dollars," he said. "I refuse to participate in the special-interest politics that sells the country to the highest bidder."
Having a good amount of cash on hand at this moment lets a candidate send "his message out more broadly and more quickly," said Bobbie Walton, executive director of Common Cause Maryland, a nonpartisan election watchdog organization.
This "extra money" the candidate has may let him have "more access to the media," Walton said, which is the most expensive part of a campaign. Still, the nature of the message is also important, she added.
This year's campaign to replace retiring Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Baltimore, is more costly than any other recent Senate race.
In the 2000 election, Sarbanes faced Republican Paul H. Rappaport, and they gathered a total of $2.1 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, an organization that tracks campaign finance. In 2004, Sen. Barbara Mikulski was challenged by Republican E.J. Pipkin, and they raised a collective $8.7 million.
"Part of the reason for that is because it's an open seat," said Walton, "but campaigns in general are getting more expensive everywhere."
On the expense side of the campaign balance sheet, Steele disbursed $2.3 million during this period, more than half of his total spending of around $4.4 million in this election cycle.
Cardin spent less than Steele in the latest period—$1.3 million, according to his campaign report. Yet, he has spent much more money overall—more than $5.1 million—much of it in the primary.
Zeese spent around $20,000 in this period, and his total expenses were more than $48,000 for the election cycle.
Campaign Finance Breakdown for 2006 Maryland Senate Race