By Josh Kurtz
Among the items the Maryland General Assembly has to finish today before adjourning Sine Die is a sweeping campaign finance reform bill.
Less than two weeks ago, a key aspect of the bill was quietly and unceremoniously changed by a Senate committee: the filing deadline for the June 2014 primaries is being moved to early January, just before the start of the next legislative session.
The change in filing deadline is not completely a done deal: It was an amendment attached by senators to the House version of the bill; if House members object today they can theoretically try to change the filing deadline back to just after the 2014 legislative session, which is where it was presumed to be once the June primary date was set. But that isn’t likely to happen.
At first blush, this appears to be a boon to incumbents.
State officeholders are banned from fundraising during the three-month legislative session, but nothing prevents challengers from doing so. Now, a rare advantage for prospective challengers has been stripped away – they have been robbed of their ability to test the financial strength of their putative campaigns during the 90 days when the incumbents are tied up in Annapolis. If the Senate committee change stands, a prospective challenger has to be sure she’s ready to go and commit to a campaign before the session even begins.
But the new filing deadline could inconvenience veteran incumbents who are mulling whether to commit to one more term – and one more campaign. They now will no longer have the benefit of being able to fully assess just how draining the fourth year of their term has been.
There is much to be said about the campaign finance legislation and its impact on Maryland elections going forward — and we’ll revisit the issue in the weeks ahead. As for the earlier filing deadline, regardless of whether you think this change is good or bad, regardless of who it benefits, one thing is incontrovertible – an important part of state election law is about to be changed, and almost nobody knew about it.
TOMORROW’S COLUMN: Session winners and losers.
Josh Kurtz is editor of Environment & Energy Daily, a Capitol Hill publication. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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