By KELLY BROOKS
COLLEGE PARK (Aug. 22, 2008) - Maryland's senators are years away from re-election campaigns, but that has not stopped their fundraising.
The latest reports with the Federal Election Commission show Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin, both Democrats, slowly and steadily building campaign accounts for seats that are up for re-election in 2010 and 2012, respectively.
"Senators are in a fundraising cycle that, two, three years before they run for office, they generally start gearing up," said Paul S. Herrnson, professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland, College Park.
Cardin, a first-term senator, raised $155,380 during the reporting period that ran from April 1 to June 30, according to the FEC, bringing his total fundraising since he won election to the Senate in 2006 to $546,934. About $105,500 of Cardin's most-recent donations came from individuals and $47,800 came from political committees.
Cardin's cash on hand jumped from $123,000 in the first quarter to $196,000 as of June 30, according to the report.
Mikulski collected nearly $154,600 in contributions during the second quarter, about $107,000 of that from individuals and $47,000 from political committees. Her cash on hand rose about $73,000 from the previous quarter, to $658,200.
Herrnson said fundraising at this point in the election cycle serves two purposes—raising money is the first goal, but campaign events now are "even more concerned with keeping in touch with people."
An early May barbecue fundraiser brought in $30,000 for Cardin, said campaign director Shelly Hettleman, with firefighters from Baltimore and Montgomery County attending the "big public gathering." The Cockeysville, Md., event cost $35 per adult, an invitation on the Maryland Democratic Party Web site reads.
Cardin is "making sure that the citizens of Maryland know what kind of job he's doing in the U.S. Senate" and is focusing on issues such as energy, environment, housing and economic problems, Hettleman said.
Simply "being good senators" and avoiding major blunders is one way for the incumbents to win, Herrnson said.
In the four years until his next election, Cardin will be able to raise much more than the nearly $9 million he raised for his 2006 election, said Herrnson, who is also director of the university's Center for American Politics and Citizenship.
"In terms of their campaigns, raise a little money, keep in touch with your supporters, that's sufficient," Herrnson said.
And bring federal resources back to the state.
"If you do all that, you face weak opposition," Herrnson said.
Cardin spent at least $21,000—slightly more than four-term senior Mikulski, whose seat is up in 2010—on fundraising consulting during the last quarter, according to the commission reports. But Herrnson is confident Mikulski, like Cardin, will be able to raise all the money she needs.
"That's not going to be a problem," he said. "She's an institution. She's not only a brand name locally, but also a brand name nationally."
There may not be "anyone of stature in the Republican Party capable" of taking Mikulski's seat, Herrnson said.
"To have that kind of money left in the bank tells you getting caught in a close election doesn't seem to be a problem."
Capital News Service contributed to this report.