Posted: Feb. 13, 2014


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

People should be excused if they think Tom Wagner has suddenly turned into Beau Biden.

Although Wagner, the Republican state auditor, spends his time scrutinizing how the money comes and goes, he is known for being practically phobic about raising it for his campaigns.

Biden, the Democratic attorney general, is a money magnet. Something about the name, maybe?

So it came as a surprise when a blast e-mail went out last week from the campaign of Brenda Mayrack, the Democratic candidate for auditor, urgently soliciting contributions from her supporters to neutralize Wagner's fund-raising accomplishments.

"Dear friends," the e-mail began, "We need your help. Tom Wagner's campaign report is in, and one thing is clear: The old guard is worried about what's coming."

What majestic sum did Wagner report? Was it more than a million dollars, like Biden?

Ahem. It was $26,540. For the entire year of 2013.

That is Girl Scout cookie money. A troop in Michigan proved it by once pulling in $21,000 in Thin Mints, Samoas and so on.

In other words, it is not exactly an amount that shrieks for sending out a blast e-mail with the message, the sky is falling, the sky is falling!

Yeh, well, Mayrack knows it. The campaign cleverly avoided any mention of how much Wagner collected. The e-mail was just Standard Operating Procedure in politics -- raising money off an opponent's fund raising.

"You know the business. Anytime there is an opportunity to communicate with your list [of supporters], you do it," Mayrack said.

With the campaign finance reports for 2013 not due into the election commissioner's office until next Thursday, Mayrack has yet to turn hers in, but she says it will show she collected about $14,000 in the few weeks after she filed her candidacy in early December.

Ken Matlusky, who was an also-ran in the 2010 Democratic primary for auditor and is trying again, has not filed his financial report yet, either.   

If Wagner's financial situation shows any campaign ought to be worrying, it would be his own.

Wagner, who has been the auditor for 25 years, goes into the 2014 election as a marked man. He is the only Republican standing between a clean sweep for the Democrats of Delaware's nine statewide offices, and he squeaked out his last race in 2010 with $86,000 in excuse-me fund raising and just barely more than 50 percent of the vote.

Nor can Wagner count on much protection at the top of the Republican ticket. With the candidates' filing deadline about five months away, the party has yet to recruit anyone for senator, representative or attorney general.

Not to forget there are 123,000 more Democratic than Republican voters here.

Still, nothing can change the political odds like a robust campaign account, and Wagner says he means to have one.

"I'm confident I'll have money to run a decent campaign, but it's tough raising money right now. We're hoping to raise $200,000 by the time it's over and done," Wagner said.

It beats getting out-raised by a troop of Girl Scouts.