Steve Schuh is a sitting Delegate and the Tea Party Republican who is running for Anne Arundel County Executive. He’s running against former three-term Sheriff, Democrat George Johnson. I’ve been following the race, having grown up in Anne Arundel County and because it raises important questions about the influence of money on who we elect.
I’m guessing green is Steve Schuh’s favorite color.
According to Steve’s most recent campaign finance report – the one covering August 20 through October 19 – he had $381,483 on hand, having raise a whopping $633,974 during the reporting period. His opponent’s campaign finance report for the same period shows a balance of only $75,969. If I was 12, I would have put a sad face at the end of that last sentence. George Johnson raised a respectable $110,235 in the critical 2 months covered by his report. That may be a lot of money for you and me, but, politically speaking it’s “chump change.”
If this year’s general election turnout is the same as it was in 2010, roughly 210,000 people can be expected to vote in Anne Arundel County. A mailing to only half of those 210,000 likely voters can cost $50,000 for design, production and postage. $100,000+ to contact all of them. And that’s only a single mailer. Not to mention the costs of local cable TV, radio and other campaign expenses. Not surprisingly, as of its last filing, the George Johnson campaign hadn’t sent out a single mailer.
Coming around the campaign bend, heading for the stretch, Steve has $5 to spend for every $1 George can spend. In politics, it’s not even close. And it’s been that way and worse for the entire campaign.
In his campaign finance report that was due on May 27th, Steve Schuh showed a prior cash balance of $900,747. On his report, George Johnson – who was three times elected Sheriff, but who has not held elective office recently – had a prior balance of only $9201. The initial advantage to the Schuh campaign was nothing short of breathtaking. Since then, Steve Schuh has raised (and spent) a fortune to fund his campaign for Anne Arundel County Executive. George Johnson has not. Financially speaking, Steve Schuh has been running unopposed.
Does that mean that Steve is the better candidate? He’s personally wealthy and he’s certainly way more popular than his opponent among people and businesses with money. But that doesn’t mean he’s the better candidate for job. Nor does it mean he’s the worse candidate. What it means is that he can afford to sell himself as a candidate more effectively than his opponent about whom, via expensive television, radio and mailers, you’ve heard little or nothing.
Campaign contributions flow to the prospective winner who, in this campaign, has been Steve Schuh from the very beginning. He’s used his own money and that a few friends of his campaign to get off to a great start by winning the primary – and he’s never looked back. In 2011, the first year of his current term as Delegate, Steve, who wasn’t running for anything, not yet, raised $317,311. In 2012, $329,054. And, hold on to your socks, in 2013 he raised $839,629. (You can confirm all these numbers at http://campaignfinancemd.us.)
If you’re a campaign contributor, if you want to get the next County Executive to pick up the phone when you call, is there really any doubt in your mind? Even if the Johnson organization knew how to change the psychology of the campaign, they’ve never had the money to do it.
So is it a fait accompli? A done deal? Is Steve a Schuh-in? If money is all that counts, you bet he is. …Oh, but then there’s you. You get to make up your own mind, don’t you? You’re the wild card who can vote for whomever you want, George Johnson or Steve Schuh, as if all that money didn’t make a whit of difference. It is, after all, your election – not the candidates’ – your chance to hire whichever candidate you want, no matter how much money they’ve been able to raise.
P.S. If you’d like to see the full reports from which I pulled all these dollar amounts, all you need to do is go to campaignfinancemd.us, click on “View Filed Reports” and enter the candidate’s name, last name first. Take a look, if you have time, and see who gave how much money to which candidate. Remember, this is the last year when affiliated companies owned by the same parent can each give up to the $4000 maximum. Beginning next year, in Maryland, that can’t happen any more.