Posted: Feb. 4, 2005
By Celia Cohen
State Treasurer Jack A. Markell's campaign treasury is flush, even if he had to fill almost all of it himself.
Markell, a two-term Democrat up for election next year, filed a campaign finance report that puts him in rarefied territory for a Delaware candidate with a shade more than $1 million in the bank as of Dec. 31, the bulk of it from $725,000 he loaned himself.
The rest came from nearly $200,000 he had on hand at the beginning of 2004 and another $141,000 from contributions he collected during the year, mostly in December after the election was over, for a grand total of $1.01 million.
Markell's ability to self-finance at 44 years old comes from his pre-political life as a telecommunications executive at Nextel and Comcast as the industry came into its own.
Money talks in politics, of course, so the question is, what is Markell trying to say? A million dollars in this little state, particularly for a modest office like treasurer, comes across about as loud as a Howard Dean scream.
Markell has decided to let the money speak for itself. He is taking a lesson from the speak-softly-and-carry-a-big-moneybag school of politics, determinedly putting no swagger into his swag.
"I'm obviously making clear that I'm taking my re-election very seriously," Markell said.
And then some. This is the sort of bankroll for someone who is expected, as Markell is, to jump into a race for governor or the Congress, whatever comes first.
"Let's just put it this way, he's not intending to return to private life any time soon," quipped Richard H. Bayard, the Democratic state chairman.
No one else at Markell's political level has anything remotely resembling his bank account at this point. Attorney General M. Jane Brady, a three-term Republican who could face the Biden money juggernaut if she runs again, closed out the year with $26,000. Auditor R. Thomas Wagner Jr., a Republican in office since 1989, has a threadbare $2,000 on hand.
At the top of the ticket for 2006, U.S. Sen. Thomas R. Carper, a first-term Democrat, has $738,000 in his treasury, and U.S. Rep. Michael N. Castle, a seven-term Republican, is sitting on $1.04 million.
The odds are Markell will not even need the money. He spent in the neighborhood of $500,000 on each of his first two races, and the Republicans have yet to float any names for treasurer, let alone a killer candidate. A frontline statewide race, like Democratic Gov. Ruth Ann Minner's re-election last year, runs in the range of $2 million.
Markell's million is attracting notice, although the Republicans are more likely to focus on the loan. "Fake is fake," said Priscilla B. Rakestraw, the Republican national committeewoman. "Why would a treasurer fake a finance report?"
Lt. Gov. John C. Carney Jr., another potential Democratic candidate for governor in 2008, reacted mildly. "I don't think he's going to need that much money to get re-elected for state treasurer. The good thing is, it will free up some money for our other candidates," he said.
There was a sense of raised-eyebrows from state House Majority Leader Wayne A. Smith, a Republican who would not mind running for governor himself. "Maybe Jack did it right, making his millions before he went into public service. His war chest is impressive, but the good thing about Delaware is a candidate can win with good ideas and lots of shoe leather," he said.
Markell certainly has drawn attention, which was no doubt the idea. What he has in his treasury is some serious focus-you money.