Posted: Jan. 22, 2007
MONEY IS THE FIRST PRIMARY
By Celia Cohen
If there is a Democratic primary for governor next year, it is expected to be waged, so to speak, between state Treasurer Jack A. Markell and his millions of dollars and Lt. Gov. John C. Carney Jr. and his millions of friends.
The money is coming in now, the votes later, so Carney is doing what he can to take his shot at the Jack pot.
Carney is circulating e-mail to crow about his own prowess in collecting contributions. He brought in $444,606 in 2006, more than doubling his 2005 donations of $216,537 in noteworthy fashion. His campaign finance report shows he has $529,202 in his treasury.
"We now have raised more money in the first two years of the election cycle than any gubernatorial candidate in Delaware history," Carney said in his e-mail.
Carney is right. At least, he is right today. Up until now, the gubernatorial candidate who had the best finances two years before the election was Gov. Ruth Ann Minner in 1998, when she was a two-term Democratic lieutenant governor like Carney and had $325,000 squirreled away.
Carney's bragging rights, however, would vanish if Markell gets in, and there is every expectation that he will, even if publicly Markell is remaining noncommittal, saying only, "I don't have anything to say about that at this moment in time."
Markell is sitting on $1.3 million. It is more than twice what Carney has available -- with $607,230 coming from contributions and $725,000 from a personal loan that Markell could draw out of the nest egg he built as a telecommunications executive before he got into politics.
If this primary happens, it is shaping up as a contest that would require each of them to have $1.5 million to $2 million at the outset. There is no telling what the total amount would be, particularly if the Republican candidate is state Senate Minority Leader Charles L. Copeland, who is a du Pont.
Beyond personal finances, Markell has an advantage that Carney does not.
Under state law, individuals may contribute up to $1,200 to statewide candidates for each election cycle. All of the contributions that Markell has collected so far count toward his 2006 re-election campaign for treasurer, so even contributors who gave him the maximum can write him another check. In contrast, Carney cannot ask for anything more from his best contributors and must keep finding new ones.
For now, Carney is expressing satisfaction with his campaign finances -- "It's very gratifying and humbling, frankly" -- and whistling past Markell's.
"The question is, what's he going to use it for? My hope is that we use our efforts and our resources against Republicans," Carney said.