WASHINGTON -- Although the Democratic primary is a year away, Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., has begun her re-election campaign by building a formidable financial base.
In the last six months of 1990, she intensified her fund-raising and collected $310,000, more than double what she raised the first half of 1990. As of Jan. 1 she had $490,000 in campaign funds, according to her latest Federal Election Commission report.
The U.S. Senate primary in Maryland is scheduled in March 1992 with the general election following in November.
Thus far, only two little-known Democrats, B. Emerson Sweatt of Charles County and Scott David Britt of Beltsville, have filed with the state Board of Elections to run against Mikulski. On the Republican side, three-term Harford State's Attorney Joseph I. Cassilly has filed.
Cassilly says he met last week with National Republican Senatorial Committee experts on "how to get going" on a campaign. "I'm trying to get a mailing out in the next month or so," he says, adding that he will be attending Lincoln's Birthday political dinners and other events around Maryland.
Maryland Republican Party sources say Rep. Helen D. Bentley, R-2nd, "supposedly" is studying the possibility of running.
Alan L. Keyes, a conservative Republican defeated in 1988 by Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, also has been mentioned as a potential challenger, as has Joseph E. diGenova, former U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia and a Maryland resident.
Keyes has said he is thinking "carefully" about running, although he is the new interim president of Alabama A&M University and plans to serve there for six to nine months.
DiGenova says he has "been approached by a number of people in the Maryland Republican Party and asked to consider running." But he says the likelihood of that is "infinitesimally small."
He says there are better candidates with proven vote-getting and fund-raising ability in Maryland -- Bentley, in particular. "A known quantity like Helen is better suited for the challenge," he says, characterizing Mikulski as a "formidable candidate."
Kevin Igoe, executive director of the state GOP, terms Cassilly a "very attractive candidate" who is "good on the issues."
Igoe predicts taxes, defense and crime would be major issues in a campaign against Mikulski and says she "very well could be" vulnerable for her vote against authorizing President Bush to use force in the Persian Gulf.
But Igoe concedes one advantage to Mikulski: "I'll start with the assumption we're not going to outspend her."
Mikulski's campaign won't declare its fund-raising goal. Spokeswoman Linda Marson said the first-term senator raised $1 million for her primary campaign in 1986 and $1 million for the general election.
The seriousness of her fund-raising efforts is indicated by the large sums she has paid for direct-mail appeals and consultants in the past several months. Davis-Needham Corp. of Washington, a fund-raising consultant, has received more than $25,000, Mikulski's finance report shows.
Mikulski is relying heavily on individual contributors, having collected $312,000 from individuals in 1990 and $139,000 from political action committees representing special interests.
Individual contributors include Henry J. Knott Jr., a Baltimore developer; Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors executive vice president Fletcher R. Hall; Baltimore contractor Victor Frenkil; Richard Alter of the Manekin Corp.; Baltimore Oriole President Lawrence Lucchino; Piper & Marbury lawyer George A. Nilson; ** chicken entrepreneur Frank Perdue; and Carl J. Sardegna, chairman and president of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Maryland.
Mikulski's PAC contributions came from a variety of union and corporate sources, among them Grumman Corp., First Maryland Bancorp, Crown Central Petroleum, the International Association of Machinists, the International Association of Fire Fighters and the Realtors PAC.
The Women's Campaign Fund and the National Abortion Rights Action League gave her $1,000 apiece.