Maryland Governor: 'We Need $2 Million More'

Martin O’Malley said he believes the marriage equality referendum can pass in his state provided “we can raise some more money.”

BY Julie Bolcer

September 25 2012 3:27 PM ET

Neither side has voluntarily disclosed their fundraising totals, and Maryland law does not require them to make public reports until October. When asked Monday how much the coalition has raised, O’Malley deferred to Levin, who declined to answer the question, prompting the governor to respond in unspecific terms.

“I would say we are far along to our goal. We are beyond the 50-yard line, and we continue to move forward, not back” he said, with a coy reference to the line repeated during his primetime speech at the DNC.

Advocates have previously said they need between $5 and $7 million to execute a winning campaign in Maryland. By comparison, Washington United for Marriage announced that it has raised more than $7 million to pass Referendum 74, the ballot initiative to uphold the marriage equality law in that state. The total includes almost $1.8 million raised in August, whereas the opposition coalition, Preserve Marriage Washington, has raised less than $400,000 of its $4 million goal. Campaign finance disclosure laws and the cost of TV advertising vary from state to state, but the Washington, D.C. and Baltimore media markets involved with Maryland are some of the nation’s most expensive.

Asked how he planned to generate the additional $2 million for the Maryland campaign, O’Malley mentioned daily phone calls and appearances in which he encourages people to “go out and activate their networks.” Although he did not mention the event, the governor headlined an out-of-state fundraiser with famous Marylanders such as John Waters in New York City two weeks ago, and he also plans to attend a fundraiser next month with Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, who drew criticism from a state lawmaker for his marriage equality advocacy. Singer Adam Lambert will appear at a benefit for the coalition Tuesday night in Washington, D.C.

Meanwhile, the Maryland Marriage Alliance is expecting “several hundred people” to attend a fundraiser at a Catholic seminary Wednesday featuring Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, according to the Washington Post. Roman Catholic Church leaders have been among the most outspoken opponents of marriage equality.

The U.S. Census Bureau lists Maryland as the wealthiest state in terms of median household income, but the marriage campaign lacks a business coalition on par with the technology companies that have supported the issue in Washington, or the financial industry that fueled the passage of legislation in New York. Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos and his wife MacKenzie donated $2.5 million to Washington United for Marriage, believed to be the largest-ever individual gift of its kind. Levin said the Maryland campaign has been driven by “grassroots and small dollar donors” to date.

“Let’s be honest, we’re not talking about California and we’re not talking about New York,” said O’Malley. “This is a very achievable goal provided the network of good-hearted people and advocates and citizens who care about this issue nationwide don’t become tired, don’t become demoralized by the fact that this has yet to pass.”

Marriage equality advocates hope to alter a long losing streak at the ballot this year. The Human Rights Campaign has invested $250,000 in each of the four states facing votes. Freedom to Marry, which had not invested in Maryland but directed $3 million to the other three states, announced last week that it had opened a political action committee in Maryland. Founder and president Evan Wolfson told the Baltimore Sun, "There is a clear path to victory if Maryland gets the resources it needs.”

Governor O’Malley expressed optimism that donors in Maryland and surrounding jurisdictions would find their “second wind” to support the campaign in his state, even as he acknowledged the factors posing a challenge to fundraising. Donors fatigue is common in a presidential election year, and the multiple ballot initiatives magnify that problem for LGBT and allied donors.

“Hey, if we knew how these things would turn out, it wouldn’t all be so exciting, would it?” said O’Malley. “So, there is a big variable here that we have in Maryland, and that is our ability to raise another couple of million dollars.”

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