Analysis: Elfreth draws fire from opponents

Analysis: Elfreth draws fire from opponents

3rd Congressional District candidates Harry Dunn, Sarah Elfreth and Clarence Lam.

Sen. Sarah Elfreth is apparently the woman to beat in the race for the 3rd Congressional District seat.

The state senator from Annapolis has drawn veiled criticism for her support by a multi-million dollar “dark money” pro-Israel super PAC, and direct criticism from a fellow state senator and opponent over alleged weak support of gun control legislation.

In at least six emails over the past week, Harry Dunn, the former U.S. Capitol police officer who is the top fundraiser in the 3rd District race, has sent at least five emails to supporters complaining about the money backing Elfreth without using her name.

“One of our opponents is trailing us by just a few points AND they’re being boosted on air by MAGA-billionaires. An insurrectionist-supporting super PAC is spending MILLIONS on ads for her.”

UPDATED 4/27/2024 10 P.M.: According to Open Secrets, a nonprofit organization that tracks money in politics, the United Democracy Project has spent $2.3 million in TV and mail ads supporting Elfreth. This is more than twice what Elfreth herself has raised, and nearly matches the $3.7 million Dun has reported raising.  Dunn in a fundraising email Saturday says an additional TV ad buy has raised the UDP figure to $3.2 million.

Some of the major donors to the super PAC (political action committee) have also been major financial backers of Donald Trump and other Republicans. One of the most prominent donors is Bernard Marcus, founder of The Home Depot. His foundation gave $2 million to UDP.

But the PAC itself is set up to support Israel and Democrats who support Israel and oppose Democrats who are seen as anti-Israel. A different pro-Israel Super PAC supports Republicans.

The odd thing about the UDP’s TV ads and five mailers backing Elfreth sent to Democratic households so far are that none of them mention Israel and the only people the ads and mailers attack are Donald Trump and MAGA-Republicans.

One side of a recent mailer in support of Sarah Elfreth from the United Democracy Project, which is partially funded by Trump donors. photo

As an “independent expenditure,” Elfreth’s campaign has no control over UDP. She has said she did not know that they were planning to support her. She freely admitted that her campaign website includes a so-called “red box,” a series of statements, videos, and high-resolution photos that independent PACs can use to support the candidate. She said that the teachers union might do independent advertising in her behalf.

These photos and videos are what UDP used to assemble their ads.

Gun control

There have been little to no attacks on opponents by the 22 Democratic candidates for the House. But last week, Ian Wick, campaign manager for Sen. Clarence Lam, D-Howard, criticized Elfreth’s TV ad touting her record on gun control legislation.

“She’s had no qualms casting votes in support of the gun industry, and was not the sponsor or cosponsor [of] the three pieces of legislation that she takes credit for in the ad,” Wick said.

“Sarah Elfreth has routinely highlighted that she defeated an NRA-backed candidate in her first election, but since taking office, she has cast several votes supported by the NRA and the gun lobby – all of which would have weakened gun control laws.”

Lam’s campaign focused on two small amendments to firearm measures. In one bill that codified areas where concealed firearms were not allowed to be carried, Elfreth voted for one of eight Republican amendments. Elfreth supported an amendment that added an exception to the law that already included exemptions for law enforcement, military, and security guards. This added an exemption for “a person who is responding to a clear and imminent threat for the purpose of protecting another.”

Elfreth was joined by five other Democrats supporting this Republican amendment, one of what she described as “gotcha amendments” aimed at targeting Democrats in districts with significant numbers of conservative voters. Two Baltimore City Democrats, Sens. Antonio Hayes and Cory McCray, also voted for this and several of the other Republican amendments, as did Democratic Sens. Dawn Gile, Anne Arundel, Katie Fry Hester, Howard; Mary-Dulany James, Harford; and Katherine Klausmeier, Baltimore Co.

Elfreth ultimately voted for the bill, as did all the Democrats except for Hayes, McCray, and Klausmeier. She also voted for the other gun control measures, though she did not sponsor or co-sponsor any of them.

The gun control group Moms Demand Action has named both Elfreth and Lam Gun Sense Candidates.

About The Author

Len Lazarick

Len Lazarick was the founding editor and publisher of and is currently the president of its nonprofit corporation and chairman of its board He was formerly the State House bureau chief of the daily Baltimore Examiner from its start in April 2006 to its demise in February 2009. He was a copy editor on the national desk of the Washington Post for eight years before that, and has spent decades covering Maryland politics and government.

1 Comment


    Sarah Elfreth seems to be stirring up quite a debate in the 3rd Congressional District race. Her support from a “dark money” pro-Israel super PAC and her stance on gun control have drawn both veiled and direct criticism from opponents. While some are concerned about the millions backing her campaign, others question her voting record on gun control legislation. It’s clear that these issues are at the forefront of voters’ minds as they consider their options in this highly contested race.