Frederick County Board of Commissioners’ President Blaine R. Young has raised nearly $450,000 in his pursuit of the Republican nomination for governor of Maryland.
Young raised $446,951 between May and January, largely from sources in Frederick and Montgomery counties, but also from other parts of Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania, according to the report filed Wednesday with the state Board of Elections.
More than 900 corporate and individual donors contributed to the campaign, the report shows.
Young had set a fundraising threshold of $300,000 by the end of 2012, when he announced his intentions to explore a run for governor in May, citing that amount as the minimum to show a suitable interest among donors.
Young said he will make a decision in September or October on whether to officially declare for the governor’s race.
If he decides not to run for governor, Young said he has promised many donors that he will consider a run for county executive, but he emphasized that the governor’s race was his top priority.
Young, who currently has about $350,000 on hand, said the money will help the campaign increase its outreach statewide and do more polling.
Young travels around the state in an RV emblazoned with the motto, “The People’s Veto.”
One of his platform positions has been a pledge to veto any increase in taxes or fees if elected governor.
During the current session of the General Assembly in Annapolis, Young said he plans to invite each Republican senator or delegate out to dinner or coffee to gauge reaction to his candidacy and see if they will support him.
Showing that he’s able to raise money is one key to helping gather that support, Young said.
“Money’s part of the equation, [but] it’s not the only part of the equation,” he said.
However, money has always made the political world go round, and Maryland’s 2014 gubernatorial race could see an unprecedented influx of cash, according to political observers.
After a 2010 race in which the two main contestants went through a combined $22 million, the upcoming race could see even more spending.
“I think that Maryland has opened a new world of campaign spending,” said Todd Eberly, a political science professor at St. Mary’s College in St. Mary’s City.
With both major parties holding primaries to win the governor’s seat because Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) is unable to run again due to term limits, the campaign will be even more expensive, Eberly said.
The 2010 campaign between O’Malley and Republican challenger and former Gov. Robert Ehrlich Jr. established a new precedent for political spending, Eberly said.
And the contentious battles over initiatives on the 2012 ballot, including same-sex marriage, an expansion of gambling in the state and whether to allow undocumented immigrants in-state tuition to Maryland universities, were the next step in that trend, he said.
In 2010, O’Malley spent nearly $14 million, while Ehrlich spent more than $8 million, according to the Center for American Politics and Citizenship at the University of Maryland.
In 2012, supporters and opponents of the gambling initiative alone spent more than $90 million to persuade voters. The measure ultimately passed with 52 percent of the vote.
Fundraising has always been important as an early barometer between candidates, said Don Murphy, a former state delegate who served as chairman of the Baltimore County Republican Central Committee and has worked on numerous Republican campaigns at both the state and national levels.
Whoever has the most money usually scores an early win in the public relations game, he said.
“The whole expectations game is big at this point,” Murphy said.
O’Malley and Ehrlich both had excellent name recognition and were the presumptive nominees going into the 2010 race, he said.
The same had been true in 2006, when O’Malley, then the mayor of Baltimore, ended Ehrlich’s re-election bid, and in the 2002 race between Ehrlich and then-Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (D).
But Murphy said with the open seat in 2014, fundraising for candidates will be more important than ever as they try to gain an advantage.
Under state guidelines, donors can contribute up to $4,000 to a single candidate or political committee in a four-year election cycle, and no more than a total of $10,000 to political committees during the same time, according to the Maryland State Board of Elections.
Murphy called Young, Harford County Executive David Craig and Larry Hogan, Ehrlich’s former appointments secretary and now director of the economic watchdog group Change Maryland, as the favorites on the Republican side.
Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and Attorney General Doug Gansler would probably battle it out for the Democratic nomination, he said.
Young and Craig’s experience as elected officials would serve them well, while Hogan probably has enough experience to overcome not having held elected office, he said.
Hogan has not formed a fundraising committee.
But Change Maryland spokesman Jim Pettit said Tuesday that, although Hogan is frequently asked if he’s a gubernatorial candidate, he is currently “100 percent focused on Change Maryland.”
Craig couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday.
Young said he hopes Republicans can avoid a primary that leaves the winning candidate too battered to mount a challenge in the general election.
Eberly said he considered Craig and Hogan the top Republican contenders because of stronger name recognition statewide, with Young more of a fringe candidate at this point.
But the primary process leaves a lot of factors in play.
“Amazing things can happen in a primary,” Eberly said.