Kratovil widens money lead over Harris
Harvesting the rewards of incumbency, freshman Democratic Congressman Frank Kratovil has expanded his financial edge over potential Republican challenger Andy Harris, according to new campaign finance reports.
Their latest Federal Election Commission filings show Kratovil out-raising Harris by nearly two-to-one. The Democrat is sitting on more than twice as much money in the bank than his Republican rival.
The contest for Maryland's first congressional district, which includes the entire Eastern Shore and portions of Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Harford counties, already ranks among the most closely watched in the nation. In 2008, Kratovil benefited from a strong Democratic trend, but the district clearly favors a Republican and the Stevensville congressman is considered one of the most vulnerable Democrats in the House.
Kratovil padded his money lead in the pre-election year, thanks to the advantages of incumbency. That historic edge appears to be particularly lucrative this year, with sweeping legislative battles in Washington affecting powerful interests across large swaths of the U.S. economy.
In particular, the fights to overhaul the nation's health care and energy sectors helped the Eastern Shore Democrat raise $296,928 in the three-month period ending June 30. That almost precisely matches the amount he collected during the first three months of the year.
Donations from political action committees, representing a wide range of special interests, again accounted for a clear majority of the congressman's campaign take.
Kratovil received more money from PACS--$162,564--than Harris received from all sources combined.
Harris, a Baltimore County state senator, collected $118,299 over the same period, between April 1 and June 30. Most of that--about $91,600--came from individuals, while just over $26,600 was from PACs.
Multi-billion-dollar lobbying/legislative wars over health care and energy brought Kratovil contributions from PACs affiliated with insurance companies, drugmakers, nurses, electric power companies, the nuclear industry and others.
Other PACS contributing to Kratovil included those representing agribusiness, defense contractors, labor unions and telecom companies. Kratovil sits on the Agriculture and Armed Services committees.
The National Automobile Dealers Association PAC gave Kratovil $3,500 in late June. The Eastern Shore congressman is one of the leading proponents of legislation designed to help Chrysler and General Motors dealers who have been ordered to give up their franchises. President Barack Obama strongly opposes the measure and its prospects of becoming law are cloudy, at best.
Kratovil also benefited from the support of Democratic colleagues, from Maryland and elsewhere. Among those whose committees gave during the period: Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski and Reps. Elijah Cummings and Dutch Ruppersberger of Baltimore and Chris Van Hollen of Montgomery County.
Harris, who is hoping to avenge his narrow loss to Kratovil last time, continues to attract money from fellow anesthesiologists around the country. He also drew contributions from PACs tied to medical and conservative groups.
A highly publicized Harris fund-raising event with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich does not appear to have attracted many large donations, however. Just over $6,000 in contributions were recorded on the date of the event, including $1,000 from Joe Gaylord, a longtime Gingrich adviser who lives in St. Michaels. Federal law requires that every donor who gives $200 or more to a candidate must be identified by name.
Unlike Kratovil, who is already receiving money through his party's congressional campaign committee, Harris did not get any money from the National Republican Congressional Committee.
The NRCC is actively working to unseat Kratovil, but it often waits to see if there is a primary contest before providing financial assistance to a challenger. Republicans in Washington and Maryland are currently waiting to see if State Sen. E. J. Pipkin, or some other Republican, will enter the September, 2010 primary for the right to take on Kratovil.
At the halfway point of 2009, Kratovil has just over a half-million dollars in the bank to Harris' $210,000. Both men are stockpiling cash for what would be an expensive rematch.
Kratovil is unopposed for his party's nomination, but a Republican primary fight would be a serious drain on Harris' resources and make challenging the incumbent that much tougher.