Fund-raiser featuring Gore raises thousands for Sarbanes CAMPAIGN 1994

June 07, 1994|By John B. O'Donnell | John B. O'Donnell,Sun Staff Writer

Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, already substantially ahead of his Republican opponents on the campaign finance front, raked in thousands more last night at a Baltimore fund-raiser that featured an appearance by Vice President Al Gore.

With polls suggesting that he is vulnerable and with Republicans staging a spirited primary for the right to take him on in November, Mr. Sarbanes, 61, has been crisscrossing the country and state, seeking contributions to finance his bid for a fourth Senate term.

Between Jan. 1, 1993, and March 31 of this year, Mr. Sarbanes raised $820,000. He had $741,000 in his treasury on March 31, far more than any of his Republican rivals but a modest amount by Senate standards. Most of the money raised during those 15 months came from out-of-state sources, much of it from Greek-Americans who are the most reliable backers of the first Greek-American ever elected to the Senate.

Last night's event at the Omni Inner Harbor Hotel consisted of a $500-a-ticket reception that drew about 150 to a small room, followed by a $100-a-ticket rally that drew about 650 more to the ballroom. Michael H. Davis, the senator's campaign manager, said the campaign hoped to raise close to $150,000.

"Paul Sarbanes is a giant in the United States Senate," Mr. Gore told the crowd at the reception. Noting a large field seeking the Republican Senate nomination, the vice president later warned the larger crowd against complacency.

Mr. Gore did not mention the fact that his father, former U.S.

Sen. Albert Gore Sr. of Tennessee, was defeated in 1970 by William E. Brock, a Republican who is now running for Mr. Sarbanes seat.

But Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski could not resist taking a shot at Mr. Brock. Without naming him, she said, "We want to make sure that the other party stops sending imports into Maryland. Imports are great for the port, but they are lousy for a Senate race."

Though he once represented Tennessee, Mr. Brock has owned a house in Annapolis since 1986 and says he has lived there full time since 1990.

Mr. Sarbanes is expected to make his candidacy official later this month. Lacking a serious challenger in the Sept. 13 primary and having the advantages of incumbency, the liberal Democrat has been slow to gear up his campaign.

In addition to Mr. Brock, the Republicans seeking their party's nomination are Ruthann Aron of Potomac, a developer and a member of the Montgomery County Planning Commission; C. Ronald Franks of Grasonville, a dentist who represents Queen ++ Anne's County in the legislature; and Ross Z. Pierpont, a retired Baltimore surgeon and perennial candidate.

Pollsters say Mr. Sarbanes is vulnerable to a strong challenge this year but still is the front-runner.

"It's going to be an interesting race," said Brad Coker, president of Mason-Dixon Political Media Research Inc. "It has the potential to be real close.

"The degree of vulnerability," he said, "is going to depend on who he runs against" in the general election.

Of the Republican candidates, Mr. Coker rates Ms. Aron and Mr. Franks, running as outsiders against the career politician, as having a better chance of defeating Mr. Sarbanes than does Mr. Brock, long a member of the Washington political scene.

Mr. Brock and Ms. Aron are millionaires who are putting a substantial amount of their own money into the race. As of March 31, Mr. Brock had put $290,000 into his campaign and raised an additional $135,000. Ms. Aron had put $110,000 into her campaign and received $121,000 more in contributions. Mr. Franks lagged far behind both.

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