For Steve Schuh, is County Executive a stepping stone to higher office or was it just a consolation prize?

Hi. According to the Maryland Board of Elections, Tea Party Republican Steve Schuh didn’t register to run for Anne Arundel County Executive until January 3, 2014. Keep that date in mind.

At the bottom of this piece, there’s a link to a 2 page table, a spreadsheet that lists information from Part 4 of the state’s standard “Campaign Finance Report Summary Sheet.” The spreadsheet is fully annotated in case you want to print it and take it with you, but here’s the gist of what it tells you.

1. Steve’s opponent is former 3-term Sheriff, Democrat George Johnson. George started raising money to run for County Executive in January of this year. His campaign started with $0 in the bank and has raised an impressive total of $292,187 through October 19 at which time the campaign had a cash balance of $75,969.

By comparison, in 2014 Steve raised $958,585 and had a cash balance on October 19 of $381,438. Impressed by the difference? Hold on to socks, it gets worse.

2. Because Steve is a sitting Delegate in the last year of two consecutive 4-year terms, I went back to his first campaign filing in January 2006. That’s the report that shows an initial balance of $0 as of April 4, 2005. In the beginning, in 2006, there were 5 consecutive reports that had discrepancy between the prior report’s ending balance and the current report’s starting balance. They’re supposed to be the same. Those 5 reports were short by a total of $93,468, but that’s not what this piece about. It’s probably just a clerical thing. He doesn’t need the money.

Between April 4, 2005 and January 8, 2014, which covers both his 2006 and 2010 campaigns for the House of Delegates, Steve raised $1,978,257.

3. According to the campaign finance report filed May 27, 2014, when Steven started 2014 he had $900,747 in his campaign bank account. George Johnson had $0. Zero bucks.

“So what?” you’re probably thinking. “Steve’s got is own money and wealthy friends and supporters. He just raised all that to make sure he’d win.” That’s a good theory and probably true – but I’m wondering if there’s not a tad more to it. I’m wondering about his motivation.

4. Of the total $1,978,257 Steve raised in the years 2005 through 2013, he raised $1,485,994 of it in 2011, 12 and 13, after he’d been elected for a second term – going back 3 years, 2 years and then 1 year before he would enter the race. That’s long-term thinking to run for a local office without an incumbent he would have to unseat. In 2011 John Leopold was the County Executive and would have termed out in 2015. There’s no way Steve could have anticipated Laura Neuman being appointed to take Leopold’s place and having to run against her. And he certainly didn’t need all that money to run again for the House.

Perhaps more to the point, of the $1,485,994 in 2011, 12 and 13, he spent $491,172 of it in 2013. That includes $73,785 that he paid to DMC Consulting for “campaign staff” and $100,000 that he paid to Scott Strategies for “graphic design.” A single payment of $100,000 to Scott Strategies on July 31, 2013, almost a year before the June 24, 2014 primary and more than 5 months before he would register to run for Anne Arundel County Executive on January 3, 2013.

And that got me thinking. Why raise and spend so much money so far in advance of a county primary? What office did Steve’s big ticket contributors think he was after? How did he encourage them to place their bets that early? Has running for County Executive really been Steve’s primary objective all along?

As I see it, there are two possibilities. One is that he wanted to make absolutely sure he won the primary and then the general election, regardless of who ran against him. After that, he’d be County Executive for 4 or 8 years and then, who knows? Maybe run for Governor, Congress or the Senate.

On the other hand, maybe, just maybe, he was thinking of running in the primary for Governor against Larry Hogan and others, but early testing of the water in 2013 discouraged him. Maybe Anne Arundel County Executive was Steve’s Plan B.

Either way, with as much money as he’s raised and still has in the bank, it’s hard to imagine that he’ll lose. Money is how voters learn about the candidates. The more money a candidate has, the louder his or her voice – and the harder it is to hear the other guy he’s running against.

As promised, here’s the link to the spreadsheet with the data I’ve been talking about…

Campaign Finance Reports Data for
George Johnson and Steve Schuh


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