Hoyer far ahead of GOP challengers in raising funds

But it's still early, Republicans say

Friday, Dec. 11, 2009

Democrats took a lot of flak last summer for their advocacy of federal health care reform, but it hasn't hurt House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer's ability to raise campaign money.

The No. 2 House Democrat, one of the party's most prolific fundraisers, reeled in nearly $575,000 during the three-month cycle that ended Sept. 30, according to federal campaign finance data.

Hoyer (D-Md., 5th) reported that he had more than $1.3 million on hand at the end of September.

Both of his potential Republican opponents lagged far behind.

First-time Congressional candidate Charles J. Lollar raised about $22,500 during the 90-day period and had just more than $17,000 in the bank.

Lollar, who lives in Newburg, said his campaign just began its fundraising efforts in September and is confident that contributions will pick up substantially in the months before next September's primary election.

He said that he hopes to raise $100,000 by early November.

"Obviously, we've got a long way to go," he said. "I am extremely optimistic and very excited about the direction we're going in right now."

Lollar hosted a fundraiser this fall in Waldorf featuring former Washington Wizard basketball player Ledell Eackles and former Green Bay Packer Antonio Freeman, both of whom live in the area. Lollar said former White House Chief of Staff John H. Sununu has also expressed interest in helping him raise money.

"We've reached out to many, and the word that we're hearing all the way from the top [of the Republican Party] is people are encouraged and excited because of what this team represents and what we believe can be done in the 5th Congressional District," he said.

Four-term Charles County school board member Collins A. Bailey, whom Hoyer handily defeated in the 2008 general election and who is once again seeking the GOP nomination, raised only $700 during the three-month period but took out a $100,000 loan that gives him almost $103,000 on hand.

Hoyer has raised approximately $1.84 million during the current election cycle, which began at the beginning of 2009. Nearly two-thirds of that amount — $1.18 million — is from political action committees.

About 55 percent of the money Hoyer raised in the third quarter, or $316,800, came from PACs.

But few of Hoyer's non-PAC donors live in his congressional district, Lollar said. Records indicate that less than 3 percent of the roughly $254,000 in individual itemized contributions made to Hoyer in the third quarter were made by his constituents.

The 15-term incumbent doesn't lack support within the district, a campaign aide said. "Congressman Hoyer remains hard at work focusing on the priorities of Maryland's 5th District and addressing the tough issues we face, including getting the economy back on track and helping those who are struggling in this downturn," spokeswoman Lisa Bianco said in an e-mail response.

Lollar received no PAC contributions and about 45 percent of the $14,100 in individual itemized donations came from the 5th District.

He said he has focused much of his early efforts on meeting voters and developing his platform.

"This is not an election about dollars and cents as much as it is about America's policy and direction," Lollar said.

The campaign has brought on several "inside-the-Beltway" political consultants whom he declined to name, but Lollar said they have agreed to forgo a big paycheck. "Most of these big names have come into this campaign realizing we don't have a lot of dollars, but they're so encouraged by this campaign that they're willing to work for bare bones, close to nothing," he said.

Meanwhile, Bailey said he felt it was important to pony up his own money before asking others to donate, especially in the midst of a recession.

"We need to set the example," he said. "We're committed to try to bring sanity back to the federal government and hopefully that shows we're committed to the cause."

Bailey also said he's excited that Lollar, who served as his campaign manager in 2008, has entered the race.