Harris, Kratovil Attract Big Donors in Run-up to Primary

September 13, 2010

(By Guest Blogger, Lou Peck– Contributing editor, CongressDaily)

Democratic incumbent Frank Kratovil and Republican Andy Harris – likely to face off this year in a rematch for Maryland’s 1st District House seat — have been attracting big-dollar donors at a steady pace in the run-up to Tuesday’s primary election, according to new reports filed through Friday with the Federal Election Commission.

Harris, who outraised Kratovil in the reporting period that covered July and much of August, pulled in another $46,300 from big-money individual donors and political action committees (PACs) in the nearly three weeks since the close of the prior reporting period on Aug. 25.

That’s somewhat more than the $38,900 that Kratovil received from PACs and big-dollar individual donors during the same three-week time slot.

The latest fundraising statistics by Harris and Kratovil are based on an examination of so-called 48-hour reports, in which candidates for Congress are required to report contributions of $1,000 or more received 48 hours prior to the primary or general election. The next full accounting of contributions to – and expenditures by – the Harris and Kratovil campaigns will not be available until the next FEC filing deadline in mid-October.

Kratovil is unopposed for renomination Tuesday, while Harris faces a primary challenge from businessman Rob Fisher. Fisher, who has pumped nearly $500,000 into a largely self-funded campaign, is seen as the underdog in the primary – notwithstanding an 11th hour endorsement Sunday from former 1st Dist. GOP Rep. Wayne Gilchrest.

Gilchrest was ousted by Harris in the 2008 primary; Gilchrest later swung his support behind Kratovil, who narrowly defeated Harris in the 2008 general election..

Although Harris has criticized Kratovil for reliance on “inside the Beltway special interests,” and Kratovil has run TV ads boasting of his record of independence from his party’s legislative agenda, both men have benefited in recent weeks from contributions made by some key inside-the-Beltway players.

Harris last week took in $9,800 – four contributions of $2,400 each – from officials of the Washington-based Carlyle Group. Under federal law, contributions from individuals are currently limited to $2,400 per election, with the primary and general considered to be separate elections.

The Carlyle Group is one of the nation’s largest and best-known private equity firms. The four Carlyle Group officials who donated to Harris – Peter Clare, Francis Finelli, Ian Fujiyama and Allan Holt – are involved with managing the firm’s holdings in the defense, aerospace and technology sectors, according to Carlyle’s Web site.

For his part, Kratovil recently attracted contributions from officials of several of the capital’s major lobbying/consulting firms. These include $1,000 each from R. Scott Pastrick, a former treasurer of the Democratic National Committee who now heads Burson Marsteller, a public relations company; Oscar Ramirez of the Podesta Group, a lobbying firm; and Anthony Harrington, an Easton resident who is chief executive officer of Stonebridge International, a consulting firm whose principals include former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Sen. Warren Rudman, R-N.H.

Kratovil also reported receiving two $5,000 contributions last Friday from the American Federation of Teachers’ PAC. That total of $10,000 represents the maximum that a PAC can donate to a member of Congress during any two-year election cycle.

In addition, Kratovil last week received a contribution of $1,500 from the Philadelphia-based Comcast Corp. PAC, bringing the total he has received from the Comcast committee to the legal maximum of $10,000. According to figures compiled by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, Comcast has donated a total of $1.4 million to federal candidates during 2009-2010, at a time when it is lobbying hard for federal approval of its proposed acquisition of the NBC television network.

Closer to home, Kratovil received a $1,000 contribution from Glenn Weinberg, a vice president of the Baltimore-based Cordish Cos. The Cordish enterprise is currently seeking passage of a referendum on the November ballot in Anne Arundel County allowing construction of a slots parlor at the Arundel Mills shopping mall.

[UPDATE: Kratovil’s congressional press secretary, Kevin Lawlor, said Kratovil has not taken a public stance on the Comcast/NBC merger. While final approval of the deal is up to the Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department, some members of Congress have chosen to comment publicly in an effort to sway regulators at those agencies.

Lawlor also said that Kratovil has not taken a position on the referendum on whether to allow a slots casino at the Arundel Mills mall. While Kratovil represents a portion of Anne Arundel County, the mall itself is just outside the 1st District. In 2008, when a statewide referendum on whether to allow casino gambling in Maryland was approved, Kratovil “basically abstained” from that debate on the grounds that it was up to state and local jurisdictions rather than federal officials to determine how best to proceed, Lawlor added.]

Meanwhile, Harris – an anesthesiologist by profession – continues to benefit significantly from out-of-state contributions from medical interests. Non-Maryland physicians donated a total of $6,400 in individual contributions to Harris in recent weeks, on top of nearly $25,000 in similar contributions that Harris received in July and August. A couple of medical PACs chipped in another $1,000 each last week.

There are a couple of well-known Maryland names on the latest filings. Chicken magnate Jim Perdue, head of the Salisbury-based Perdue Farms, gave $2,400 – the maximum an individual is allowed for the primary – to Harris.

In Kratovil’s camp is Mayo Shattuck, chief executive officer of Constellation Energy – the parent company of Baltimore Gas & Electric. Shattuck donated $1,000, while another $2,400 came from Jonathan Thayer, Constellation Energy’s chief financial officer.

Food Aid Rising in Cecil County: 11% Get Help

January 3, 2010

  Federal food stamps are now used by about 11 percent of  Cecil County residents, up from about 10 percent of county residents just a few months ago, according to state data. The indicators show the impact of the recession is still growing in Cecil County, even as some economic forecasters project that the economy is improving.

    Detailed statistical reports by the Maryland Department of Human Resources, which oversees various welfare programs including food stamps, show a sharp increase in food stamp aid in Cecil County within the past year. There were 11,059 participants in the program in November, 2009, up from 8,241 participants in November, 2008.  And just since this summer, participation in the food aid program has jumped by nearly 1,000 people in the county.

   The food stamps program has long been viewed by many economic analysts as a leading indicator of financial hard times, since the federally-funded program has less restrictive rules for participation than cash welfare programs and many newly poor-but-proud families who shun traditional welfare will accept food stamps to feed their children. The program, formally renamed “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program” or SNAP in 2008, provides debit cards that can be used to buy groceries, with the amount of aid dependent upon family size and income.

   Statewide, food stamp participants numbered 527,011 in November, up from 491,262  just a few months ago, in July, 2009.

    Although the numbers show rising numbers of Maryland families are getting food aid, a Baltimore court ruled several weeks ago that state social services agencies are not moving fast enough to meet the demand. The judge ordered the state to come up with an action plan to make sure that all applicants for food stamps receive a decision within 30 days, as required by federal regulations.  (Read about the court decision here:)http://www.acy.org/articlenav.php?id=592

    During the court case, advocates for the poor calculated that just 59 percent of eligible families in the state were actually receiving benefits in 2007. The state argued that it had made efforts to improve its outreach to eligible families and speed up processing of claims. But the court found otherwise and directed the state to comply with the 30-day processing rule by the end of this year.

    Anecdotally, local Cecil County food pantries and churches have reported increased calls for assistance in these tough economic times. On the Upper Shore, other counties are also hard hit. As of June, 2009, food stamp participation amounted to 13 percent of the population in Caroline County; 10 percent in Kent County; 7 percent in Talbot County; and 5 percent in Queen Anne’s County.

     Statewide, Cecil County’s food stamp rate tied for eighth highest, along with Kent County, Washington County and Worchester County. The highest food stamp rates, as of June, 2009, were Baltimore City (24 percent of the population); Dorchester County (20 percent); Somerset County (16 percent); Allegany County(15 percent); Wicomico County (14 percent); Caroline County (13 percent); and Garrett County (12 percent).

    Seven of the counties on that list are in the First Congressional District. That means that incumbent Rep. Frank Kratovil, a Democrat, and whichever Republican ends up running against him in this year’s November election, would be well advised to pay attention to what the food stamp numbers mean in political terms. People in the First District are hurting, and when they are hurting, they are usually angry. And an angry electorate is unpredictable.

E.J. PIPKIN: Campaigning in Cecil, but for what job?

September 9, 2009

   Our spies around the county tell us that State Sen. E.J. Pipkin, R-Upper Shore, was in full campaign mode on Route 213 in Cecil County on Wednesday morning, waving from a pick up truck with aides holding signs declaring, “Pipkin for State Senate.” Now that would seem like the declarative statement many have been waiting for to answer the question: what is E.J. running for in 2010?

   But, no, like that movie ‘international man of mystery,’ Sen. Pipkin’s  signs do not necessarily reflect his intentions, according to an aide.

   “This was part of the Senator’s listening tour,” said Katie Nash, Pipkin’s Chief of Staff. “He’s continuing to listen to citizens,” she said, after doing similar roadside waves in Queen Anne’s County on Tuesday.  He will also be in Kent County on Thursday, waving signs to protest the Governor’s proposed closing of the Upper Shore Mental Health Center, she added.

   (As we were writing this post, we received an automated “robocall” from Pipkin urging us to call the Governor to protest the proposed closing of the Kent County facility as part of the latest budget cuts.)

   Although the signs said “Pipkin for State Senate,” that doesn’t necessarily mean he is indeed running for re-election to that post, the aide said. So he might still be looking at the Republican nomination to run against incumbent Democratic Congressman Frank Kratovil in the 1st District, or challenging Democratic incumbent state Comptroller Peter Franchot.

    If Pipkin does not seek re-election to the state Senate, we’d put our bets on the Comptroller slot. Republican State Sen. Andy Harris– who beat both Pipkin and former Rep. Wayne Gilchrest in the 1st District Congressional Republican primary two years ago– is already fund-raising for a general election re-match with Kratovil and has strong backing from the national Republican party. 

   Pipkin usually self-funds most of his campaigns, but given the uber price tags of the last 1st District Congressional race, there’s only so much self-funding a candidate can do. Federal campaigns are much more restrictive in donation rules than Maryland election law so it is virtually impossible to shift state campaign funds to a federal contest.

      So far in the 2010 state election cycle, Pipkin has raised a modest $60,348, with expenditures of $43,773. Most of his donations– 38 percent– came from Political Action Committees based in Maryland with 32 percent coming from  individual donors, according to state election records.

    Comptroller Franchot has been running a non-stop re-election campaign almost since the day he was elected but  it is not a job that most voters pay a lot of attention to until shortly before the election.  It’s a post that could be a good fit for Pipkin, with his Wall Street financial background, and the fact that it really doesn’t require a lot of heavy lifting  day in and day out. 

 But it’s a job that does require a lot of campaigning and PR– remember Willie Don Schaefer, and before that Louie Goldstein? Not many voters had the slightest idea what they actually did in the job but they sure did campaign a lot.  Pipkin has shown he likes campaigning, a lot, and the Comptroller job might suit his style and aspirations.  A statewide win for the Comptroller slot would position him for a potential gubernatorial or U.S. Senate bid in the future.

   But he’d have his work cut out for him challenging Franchot, who is very popular in his home base in the populous Montgomery County  and other suburban areas of the state where Pipkin barely registered on the political pulse in his last statewide race against U.S. Sen. Barbara Milkulski.

    Meanwhile, as Sen. Pipkin waves signs that may or  may not signal his intentions, other Republicans are left in the lurch on whether they can aspire to his state Senate seat or not.  Del. Richard Sossi, R-36, has signaled his interest if Pipkin moves up or on. Sossi is one of the most visible members of the Cecil County delegation, even though he doesn’t actually live in the county.  Last time we checked his Twitter schedule, we were exhausted just contemplating all those community meetings he attends.

Labels, Geography and ‘Rockfish Republicans’

October 9, 2008


    Labels tell us a lot when we go to the supermarket but picking a political candidate is usually more complicated than picking the soup with the lowest sodium content. That’s why political labels or even party affiliations may be less important than geography for Cecil County voters this year.


  Consider the 1st District Congressional race between Republican Andy Harris, of Baltimore County, and Democrat Frank Kratovil, of Queen Anne’s County on the Eastern Shore. Harris brands Kratovil a “liberal” and Kratovil’s ads say Harris is “way out there” on the right wing. So much for labels.


   Harris upset incumbent Rep. Wayne Gilchrest in the multi-candidate Republican primary by carrying counties on the Western Shore.  The Eastern Shore was no-man’s land for Harris. Even in Cecil County, where Gilchrest had lots of GOP critics, Gilchrest beat Harris with 32.8 percent of the vote, in contrast to the 31.3 percent share Harris took in Cecil.  (Gilchrest always had a harder time in his own party primary than he did in general elections, when he won considerable support from Democrats. Hardcore conservative Harris can’t expect comparable Democratic support in November.)


    But Kratovil has his own problems in Cecil County. He lost the county in the primary to Christopher Robinson in a 4-way contest, with 30.2 percent of the vote to Robinson’s 32.9 percent. Yet Kratovil racked up solid margins in other Shore counties and the Baltimore County, Harford County and Anne Arundel County portions of the district.


   Now Kratovil is leaning on what some pundits call the “Rockfish Republicans”—moderates on both the Eastern and Western Shore who supported Gilchrest in the past. Gilchrest himself has endorsed Kratovil as have several Republican county commissioners in Kent and Caroline counties on the Shore.


   For the general election, Shore residents are a majority of the district’s electorate so if Shore residents voted purely on the basis of geography, Shore resident Kratovil would win. Of course, most people vote on other factors, like party label, and national issues like the economy or the war in Iraq.


  But geography isn’t such a bad way to pick a horse in this race. Gilchrest had to drive over the Bay Bridge just about every night to come home from his Washington job. His Kennedyville house was down the street from a little grocery where locals could collar him on any problem, from the crab harvest to the closing of the soup factory in Chestertown.


   Queen Anne’s county, Kratovil’s base, is a stretch from Cecil but it shares a lot of the same problems: Bay shoreline and pollution concerns, development pressure, transportation problems, and a lack of local jobs that forces residents to commute over a bridge to jobs on the Western Shore. Sound familiar?


   Historically, the 1st District has been represented by a resident of the Shore, except for a brief hiatus when a rural Southern Marylander held the seat before Gilchrest. But this time, the choice is between a Shore resident and a suburban Baltimore County resident. We don’t think they set trot-lines in Baltimore County or know what it’s like to spend $8 or more in gas to travel long distances to buy groceries or get medical care.


  So maybe the label or slogan that matters here is “Shore-nuff” or “Vote Local.”






First District Congress Race Gets National Attention

October 9, 2008

  The 1st District race for Congress, between Democrat Frank Kratovil and Republican Andy Harris,  has been getting more attention, and treated as more of a contest, by national non-partisan analysts.  Stuart Rothenberg rates the 1st as a “Republican favored” race as of September 30. But Rothenberg had to eat his words of just a few months ago when he predicted that there was no way Democrats could pick up as many as 30 seats in the House. Now he admits Democrats are likely to gain 20 seats and a 30 seat gain is entirely possible.


 (Read his latest post here:  http://www.rothenbergpoliticalreport.blogspot.com/


  Charlie Cook, who publishes the influential non-partisan Cook Political Report, recently upgraded the 1st to a ‘leans Republican’ rating from a Republican favored status.


    The Politicker political website rates the contest as the 52nd most competitive House race in the country while the independent Real Clear Politics website, which has become a bible for political junkies and pundits nationwide, lists the 1st District as number 45 on its list of the 50 most competitive House contests.

 ( Read their report here: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2008/09/top_house_races_continued.html


   Kratovil has some well-connected Marylanders in his corner, including Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Montgomery County, who also heads the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. (DCCC) The DCCC has pledged up to $1 million to support Kratovil and has bought $250,000 in TV air time for a new ad running on Baltimore and Salisbury stations.


 Read about the ad here: