Political change -- and dollars,too

November 15, 1993

If the flow of political contributions is any indication, it's hard to believe all the talk about incumbency being the kiss of death for politicians in these throw-the-rascals-out times.

Recent campaign finance reports from incumbents and others who have filed as possible candidates in state and county elections next year indicate that being well known is definitely an advantage. Popular Democrats and Republicans head the list of money raisers. Newcomers by and large trail far behind. That's not a surprise, but it does underscore the difficulty for fledgling politicians trying to crack the ranks of the already elected.

In Howard County, for instance, the two top fund-raisers are Republican County Executive Charles I. Ecker and Democratic Del. Virginia M. Thomas, both of whom are viewed as virtually certain winners in 1994.

Mr. Ecker raised $42,587 within the past year, but had little leftover from prior years. Ms. Thomas, meanwhile, raised $35,846, but had plenty in reserve, leaving her with an impressive war chest of $56,452. Other candidates have not come close.

Former County Executive M. Elizabeth Bobo, who is running to become a state delegate in District 12B, has $25,898 on hand, most of that left from a previous campaign. Incumbency did not work for her three years ago, but name recognition may help her this time around.

On the County Council, Democrat Shane Pendergrass is the top fund-raiser with $21,589, but she is waiting for Ms. Thomas to decide what office she will be seeking before declaring herself for either the state House or Senate.

The best example of the difficulty facing non-incumbents is personified by John W. Taylor, who recently declared himself a Democrat after breaking ranks with Republicans over county growth issues. With a meager $521 on hand, his biggest dilemma is not which office to seek -- the council or the executive's seat -- but whether to accept contributions from the developers he has been bashing all these years.

Without their help, he probably stands little hope of victory. But if he makes the right overtures, developers may even forget the past and pony up for his campaign. After all, Coca-Cola Enterprises saw fit to forgive Ms. Pendergrass for problems she caused the company in its bid to build a major plant in Howard County: It has so far tossed $500 her way.

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