By Madeline Marshall
Capital News Service
WASHINGTON - With the primary election three months away, the Democratic candidates in the 6th District Congressional race have been raising and spending big bucks, proving just how competitive the Republican-held district has become after redistricting.
State Sen. Rob Garagiola, D-Montgomery, ended 2011 with $323,000 cash in hand after receiving 318 contributions from individuals, 77 percent from Maryland residents, according to year-end Federal Election Commission reports filed this week.
Wealthy entrepreneur John Delaney has been the largest spender in the Democratic primary, spending more than four times as much as his rivals combined, with $118,000 of his own money.
He spent $18,800 on polling and $12,700 on research before he even announced his candidacy in January.
"Why not? Having access to those kinds of resources can only help you," said political science professor Michael Cain of the Center for the Study of Democracy at St. Mary's College of Maryland.
After goading from Garagiola to release his tax forms, Delaney issued a statement saying he makes an average of $14.5 million annually.
Delaney has focused his spending on media with $15,000 for his website, $9,000 for video services and more than $44,000 for his staff, who are all independent contractors.
"John is committed to being the next representative," said Delaney's campaign manager Max Cummings.
Garagiola focused on fundraising, spending $6,000 on consulting, $3,000 on his website and $2,000 on campaign materials.
"Running against John Delaney, we believe he's going to buy the race so we have to work very hard on fundraising to make sure our message is clear," said Garagiola's campaign manager Sean Rankin.
While Delaney and Garagiola see themselves as the two contenders, candidate Dr. Milad Pooran has surprised the field with $102,000 cash on hand after raising $68,000 in individual contributions.
"What it basically shows is that this is a three-person race between Garagiola, Delaney, and us," Pooran's campaign manager Walter Ludwig said. "We have the resources to compete."
Other Democrats in the field have not reported any significant fundraising.
The candidates are attempting to unseat Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick, who finished December with $342,000 cash on hand. That is consistent with the 10-term congressman's cash on hand this time last election cycle, but he has never had so much competition.
After a controversial redistricting, the 6th District now includes parts of Democratic-leaning Montgomery County. Fourteen candidates are vying for Bartlett's seat making both the primary and general election a nationally-followed race.
In January, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee put the 6th District on its "Red to Blue" program, which offers Democratic campaigns financial and strategic support in races where Republicans are vulnerable.
The National Republican Congressional Committee also put the 6th District on its Patriot Program, which provides fundraising support to Republican incumbents.
"There's potential for either party to pick it up, so there's a lot of jockeying," said Cain.
Republican campaign fillings are so far incomplete.