David Blair digs deep into his own pocket, spending $2.95million on bid for county executive

Montgomery County leadership candidates Marc Elrich, David Blair and Hans Riemer

This story was updated at 12:45 p.m. Wednesday to include details of the campaign finance disclosure report filed by County Executive Marc Elrich’s campaign Tuesday evening.

Multi-millionaire businessman David Blair continues to spend his own money at a blistering pace in his second bid in four years to run for Montgomery County executive, according to newly filed campaign disclosure reports.

In a report filed electronically with the State Board of Elections, Blair said he had made personal loans to his campaign totaling just over $2.95 million since launching his candidacy in March 2021. Of that total, $1.85 million was invested in the campaign between the start of this year and last week, according to the latest report. This is on top of an earlier $1.1 million loan Blair said he made in a filing last January.

In total, the Blair campaign has reported spending of $3.19 million over the past 15 months, including just over $2.11 million over the past five months. Nearly $1 million of the latter figure has been spent on media advertising, with the Blair campaign reporting more than $530,000 for television advertising so far.

All candidates for state and local office in Maryland were required to file pre-primary campaign finance disclosure reports with the State Board of Elections by midnight Tuesday. County executive Marc Elrich’s campaign – which beat Blair by just 77 votes in the 2018 Democratic primary – filed its report on Tuesday evening, while the third major Democratic nominee for county executive in the July 19 primary, County Councilman Hans Riemer, filed last weekend.

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Unlike Blair, Elrich and Riemer rely on the county’s four-year-old public campaign finance system, which limits the amount of private donations a candidate can accept in return for being eligible to receive campaign funds. public.

Since Elrich’s previous filing in April, he has raised just under $51,000 in private donations not to exceed $250 per individual contributor — the maximum allowed under the county’s public campaign finance law. During his run for a second term, Elrich raised a total of $183,000 in private contributions, and secured nearly $407,000 in public campaign funds.

Based on the latest private fundraising efforts, Elrich requested an additional $143,000 in public funds in the report filed Tuesday — which would bring him to a total of $550,000 in public funding to date. County executive candidates participating in the public finance program are eligible for up to $750,000 in public funds per election.

Elrich received the maximum $750,000 by winning the primary four years ago. This time around, Riemer appears to be overtaking the incumbent in tapping into the public fundraising program after Elrich – to the dismay of some supporters – only started fundraising in earnest in September last year.

Riemer’s latest report showed that — since the start of this year — he had received nearly $148,350 in private contributions. Combined with previous fundraising efforts, his campaign has raised approximately $284,500 in private contributions since Riemer announced his candidacy just over a year ago.

So far, Riemer has leveraged that to receive nearly $357,500 in public funding and, based on his latest filing, has claimed eligibility for an additional $358,200 in public campaign funds — giving him would provide nearly $716,000 of the maximum government grant of $750,000.

The Elrich campaign enjoyed a cash benefit in early June: it said it had $478,000 in the bank, compared to Riemer’s $361,400.

Unlike Blair’s spending of nearly $1 million on media advertising, the Elrich and Riemer campaigns had spent just $5,689 and $8,622, respectively, as of early June, mostly on advertising. in newspapers and online.

That should change as the campaign enters its home stretch: In an email to supporters this week, Riemer aides indicated that the expected receipt of additional public campaign funds would enable the launch of a planned media effort. This plan includes television commercials on Montgomery County cable systems as well as DC market broadcast stations.

Blair said he raised about $80,000 from outside contributors in his latest filing, in addition to $300,000 in donations raised last year. That total, however, is dwarfed by what he has allocated in personal assets to fund his campaign.

While the $2.95 million he has given out so far qualifies as loans, candidates who lend money to their own campaigns rarely receive a refund — those funds usually ending up as de facto contributions. .

Blair set a record in 2018 by spending $5.7 million on his near miss for the Democratic county executive nomination, including $5.4 million from his own pocket.

While he said in an interview late last year that “I can’t imagine” spending that much this time around, his spending to date has already ensured his current candidacy will be at least the second campaign the most expensive of all time for the Montgomery County executive – eclipsing the $2.7 million spent by then-Council member Steve Silverman in a 2006 run for office.

Unlike the $3.19 million spent by the Blair campaign to date, the Elrich campaign’s total spending in the first week of June was less than 4% of that total: $111,600. Riemer said total expenses were nearly $280,000.

The difference in the size and scope of Blair’s campaign and those of his two main opponents is underscored by the respective salary budgets.

While the Blair campaign had a total payroll of $1.55 million over the past 15 months, Elrich spent just $55,000 on campaign salaries while running for re-election; the comparable figure for the Riemer campaign is $175,750.

The size of Blair’s campaign staff is hard to discern from his campaign disclosure reports. Most salary payments are simply listed as being routed through Paychex – the payroll service retained to compensate Blair employees – without specifically identifying individual employees.

Elrich’s latest campaign report lists only two paid campaign staffers — a campaign manager and a recently hired second assistant. Riemer said he had five paid campaign staff, including a campaign manager, as of early June.

Gaithersburg-based technology entrepreneur Peter James, who filed an affidavit with the State Board of Elections stating that he “does not intend to receive contributions or incur expenses in the aggregate amount of $1 $000 or more” after entering the race in late March.

In a county with a 4-1 Democratic registration advantage, victory in the Democratic primary usually equates to an election in November. However, there is a primary for the Republican county executive nomination between Reardon Sullivan, chairman of the Montgomery County Republican committee, and Friendship Heights attorney Shelly Skolnick, a frequent candidate in recent years.

Sullivan, who entered the race just before the April 15 filing deadline, said he raised about $23,000 and spent about $13,000, the bulk of which, $6,100, on advertising in line. Skolnick filed an affidavit stating that he has no intention of raising or spending more than $1,000.

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