2018 Primary Election: How did money play into Baltimore City Senate races?

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Though the results aren’t yet certified, it appears Baltimore City’s Senate Delegation will be looking quite different in Annapolis next January following last night’s election. Three of the city’s six seats appear to have changed hands Tuesday, with younger challengers—all of them current city delegates—toppling their older counterparts.

Campaign finance records show four of the five winners from last night outspent their challengers through June 10 (the endpoint for the most recently available data), and three of them raised more money than their competitors. Senate-elect (and current Del.) Cory McCray, for instance, spent nearly $168,000 on his 45th District Senate campaign over the last 18 months, while incumbent Sen. Nate McFadden, the now-outgoing Senate president pro tempore, spent $94,444. McCray won his election by 17 points last night.

In the 40th District, Del. Antonio Hayes, newly elected to replace Sen. Barbara Robinson, spent nearly $159,000 on his campaign since January 2017, compared to Robinson’s $106,000. Hayes notably raised nearly twice as much ($254,874) as Robinson ($133,803) since the last general election in 2014. He won with nearly two-thirds of the vote.

Even in the closest race in District 43—the results of which remain still in question with two precincts still not reporting—Del. Mary Washington’s slim margin of victory over Sen. Joan Carter Conway essentially matched their campaign-financing race. Washington, who leads with 51.5 percent over Conway’s 48.5 percent, spent $161,632 on her campaign since January 2017; Conway spent $131,703.

In this case, Conway had a bigger war chest from contributions, having raised more than $290,000 since the 2014 general election. Washington pulled in about $267,000 during the same period.

Incumbent 44th District Sen. Shirley Nathan-Pulliam, who held on to her seat against a challenge from Aletheia McCaskill last night, also bested her opponent in the bank account. Nathan-Pulliam had the advantage of her existing fundraising base: She drew almost $77,000 in contributions since November 2014, when she was last elected, while McCaskill had raised about $24,300 since July of 2017, two months before she declared her candidacy.

Nathan-Pulliam correspondingly spent more than twice as much as McCaskill. She won her race with a whopping 67 percent of the vote last night.

The exception to this trend of monetary advantage was the arguably most high-profile Maryland State Senate race in Baltimore on Primary Day: Recently appointed 41st District Sen. Jill Carter versus former Gov. Martin O’Malley’s son-in-law, J.D. Merrill.

Merrill outpaced Carter, dubbed the “people’s choice” by black community leaders, in both contributions—he raised $218,300 in eight months to her $66,000 in three years—and spending, exceeding her total expenses by $92,200. But after a tense battle on the campaign trail, Carter won with 55 percent of the vote last night.

Aside from Carter-Merrill, however, the numbers suggest war chests and spending influenced the outcome of these elections for Baltimore’s senate delegation. Granted, pending campaign finance reports will shed more light on spending in the final two weeks before the elections. And this isn’t to say that money was the determining factor—community support, credentials and quality (not just quantity) of messaging are crucial to any race, particularly here in Baltimore.

But having those extra dollars to throw around certainly didn’t hurt.

Ethan McLeod
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Ethan McLeod

Senior Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl
Ethan has been editing and reporting for Baltimore Fishbowl since fall of 2016. His previous stops include Fox 45, CQ Researcher and Connection Newspapers in Northern Virginia. His freelance writing has been featured in Baltimore City Paper, Leafly, DCist and BmoreArt, among other outlets. He enjoys basketball, humid Mid-Atlantic summers and story tips.
Ethan McLeod
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