University of Maryland Lutheran chaplain Ray Ranker, who's running as an independent for Maryland's House of Delegates, has made a point of refusing to accept large donations, and donations from corporations or special interest groups.
But, about two months out from the general election, he faces a stiff fundraising challenge, particularly from incumbents Joseline Peña-Melnyk and Ben Barnes, both Democrats.
"I've heard even from candidates who have said, 'I respect what you're doing but you need to do what it takes to get to the table.' Well, I'm not willing to do whatever needs to happen to get to the table because … we've already given too much influence to the big donors," Ranker said.
All three seats in Rankers district, Maryland's 21st, are up for election this year.
As of Aug. 21, Ranker's campaign had nearly $18,000 in the bank, according to his campaign finance report. Peña-Melnyk had nearly $42,000 on hand. Ranker did have more in his coffers than his other opponents, though.
Peña-Melnyk raised about $5,000 in the reporting period that spanned from mid-June to Aug. 21, just a few hundred dollars more than Ranker.
But Barnes out-raised them both this summer garnering about $16,000 in contributions, largely in donations greater than $100.
About 75 percent of Ranker's donations for the period were $10 or less; the majority of Peña-Melnyk's were $250 or greater.
"I have long supported public campaign finance. This would level the playing field for elections. I serve all of my constituents without regard to whether they contribute or not. I have always voted my conscience and in the interest of my district," Peña-Melnyk said in an email.
Ranker has limited individual donations to his campaign at $600 — 10 percent of the legal limit.
"Basically the case that I'm making is if we start showing that you don't have to take all the money from corporations and special interests, that there's another way," he said.
Ranker will face incumbents Peña-Melnyk and Barnes in the District 21 race in November, as well as Mary Lehman (D), Chike Anyanwu (R) and Richard Douglas (R).
Ranker said he reached out to his opponents, urging them to adopt similar pledges against accepting large donations from corporate entities or special interests.
"Not a single one was interested in that," Ranker said.
Rankers' other opponents did not respond to requests for comment on this article.
Laura Tiffany, president of the Lutheran Campus Ministry at this university, said the organization has had to make plans for if Ranker wins the election, but she doesn't think it's the most important goal.
"I mean, of course it's everyone's goal to win when they run for something, but I think really he's just trying to be an example that you don't need to take funding from large donors things like that," the senior neurobiology and physiology major said.
Solomon Akwue, a 39-year-old volunteer for Ranker's campaign, said not collecting money from corporations has brought Ranker both support and donations.
"We just know that yes, he's going to win," he said.
To run on the general election ballot, Ranker and his campaign team had to collect the signatures of 1 percent of the registered voters in the district as of Jan. 1.
Eight hundred and fifty-one signatures later, Ranker was on the ballot. It all started last October, and since then, he's continued campaigning in earnest, he said.
"Last night? Knocking on doors. Night before? Knocking on doors. Night before? Knocking on doors," Ranker said.