Steinberg banks on big war chest to scare foes He starts with $100-a-head reception

June 15, 1993|By John W. Frece | John W. Frece,Staff Writer

It is the political equivalent of muscling up: a big fund-raiser long before an election that is so well attended and raises so much money that a candidate's competitors will think twice before getting in -- or staying in -- the race.

That's what Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg was hoping to pull off last night with a $100-a-head reception at Martin's West.

His gubernatorial campaign committee said the event raised $175,000 in ticket sales even before the first well-wisher walked through the door.

It is still 15 months before the September 1994 Democratic primary for governor, but Mr. Steinberg is already in a hotly contested race with Parris N. Glendening, the Prince George's County executive, to raise enough money to scare off other Democratic Party opposition.

A veteran of 20 years in the General Assembly and nearly seven as Gov. William Donald Schaefer's lieutenant governor, "Mickey" Steinberg likes to portray himself as the man to beat for the Democratic nomination for governor.

Mr. Schaefer, now completing his second term, is barred from seeking re-election.

Nevertheless, at this early stage of the campaign, it appears that Mr. Steinberg is trailing Mr. Glendening in fund raising.

And while both men like to point to the money they already have in the bank, other possible Democratic candidates -- including Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke -- may still have time to raise the cash they need.

Last night, Mr. Steinberg's supporters -- donning yellow lapel stickers proclaiming "Mickey '94" -- packed a three-chandelier reception hall the size of a football field.

The contributors included business executives, developers, lobbyists, legislators and other government officials, including State Treasurer Lucille Maurer and Maryland Rep. Kweisi Mfume, D-7th.

Michael G. Bronfein, Mr. Steinberg's campaign finance chairman, said he counted 1,300 people halfway through the two-hour event and more were stuck in a bottleneck outside in the parking lot.

Yelling over the hubbub of the crowd, Mr. Steinberg said he was gratified by the turnout.

"Your dollars are really going to help me get my campaign message across," the 59-year-old lieutenant governor said.

Even if last night's event proves to be as successful as Mr. Bronfein suggested and brings in $200,000 or more, it would leave Mr. Steinberg's treasury with roughly $600,000 -- approximately the same amount Mr. Glendening had raised by last November, the last time candidates were required to report.

Since then, said John P. Davey, Mr. Glendening's finance director, the county executive has raised another $300,000, most of it at two large fund-raisers in Prince George's and Montgomery counties.

Mr. Davey said that by the next reporting deadline in November, Mr. Glendening hopes to have more than $1 million in the bank, even after paying his expenses.

Both the Steinberg and Glendening camps believe they must raise between $2.5 million and $3 million to be successful, and both have a series of smaller fund-raisers around the state planned throughout the remainder of 1993.

Other Democrats who have expressed interest in the race include Mayor Schmoke, Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr., state Sen. Mary Boergers of Montgomery County, and Dr. Neil Solomon, chairman of the governor's Drug and Alcohol Abuse Commission.

None of them has yet raised comparable amounts of money.

Mr. Steinberg says his campaign has been troubled by its own success: at least three different campaign committees have been set up to raise money on his behalf, and he admits they have at times worked at cross purposes.

To sort all this out, Mr. Steinberg said he is considering hiring former Baltimore County Executive Theodore G. Venetoulis, a longtime friend and political associate who unsuccessfully ran for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 1978, to coordinate his campaign activities.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.