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Mikulski's campaign funds more than opponents combined

September 10, 2009|By DIANA NGUYEN, Capital News Service

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- The most recent campaign finance reports show that Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski has $1.5 million on hand for a 2010 re-election bid, only a fraction of the amount she had for her last election.

But potential opponents have even less.

"The Republican Party in Maryland is about as well as a corpse," said Eric Uslaner, professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland College Park.

The four-term senator raised almost $800,000 in the quarter that ended June 20 and had a little more than $1.5 million cash on hand, according to the most recent reports with the Federal Election Commission.

Of three Republican challengers so far, only Jim Rutledge had raised any money, according to the FEC, with $1,875 cash on hand, $15,147 in spending and $8,856 in debt.

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A second challenger, Eric Wargotz, of Queenstown, Md., has not reported any fundraising yet, but said he expects to file in the next quarter.

Republican Daniel McAndrew of Forest Hill, Md., has filed a statement of candidacy with the Maryland State Board of Elections, but has not yet filed with the FEC. The same is true of unaffiliated candidate Robert Henry Brookman of Catonsville, Md.

The Republicans said they are not daunted by Mikulski's fundraising advantage, vowing to run a grass-roots campaign that focuses on the incumbent's record.

"I think all incumbents are weak," said James Pelura, chairman of the Maryland Republican Party.

In an overwhelmingly Democratic state like Maryland, with a senator who wins 60 percent to 80 percent of the vote because she handles constituents and politics well, Mikulski doesn't need that much money to win, Uslaner said.

Uslaner said the amount of money Mikulski currently has on hand is considered low: She received more than $6 million in total contributions before the 2004 election.

Mikulski's office declined to comment on her campaign finances.

About 43 percent of Mikulski's campaign finances came from political action committees. Rutledge got 2.9 percent of his campaign funding from PACs. Wargotz did not discuss his finances except to say that he has raised money and would file in the next cycle.

The most important thing when trying to unseat an incumbent is not money but how well the candidate did in the last race, said John Samples, director of the Center for Representative Government at the Cato Institute. A small margin shows weakness and tells the challenging party that the incumbent can be beaten.

Mikulski has never received less than 60.7 percent of the vote.

Samples predicted the Republican Party most likely will put its financial efforts toward securing open seats, defending Republican incumbents and fighting against incumbent Democrats with apparent weaknesses.

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