Sauerbrey at fund-raising milestone CAMPAIGN 1994 -- THE RACE FOR GOVERNOR

June 14, 1994|By John W. Frece | John W. Frece,Sun Staff Writer

Boosted by a big fund-raiser last week, Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey is expected to announce today that she has raised enough money to qualify for potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in public funds for her campaign for governor.

Theoretically, Mrs. Sauerbrey could be eligible for as much as $340,000 in matching funds for the primary and, if she wins there, $1 million more for the general election.

For the 56-year-old Mrs. Sauerbrey, who has served in the House of Delegates since 1979 but is still not widely known outside her northern Baltimore County district, the public funds are especially important. The money will help pay for television ads that could make her more visible to voters as she competes against a better known and better financed rival in the Sept. 13 primary, Congresswoman Helen Delich Bentley.

Campaign sources indicated yesterday that Mrs. Sauerbrey has raised about $160,000 in qualifying contributions. That's about $10,000 more than is required before a candidate may tap into a $2.8 million Maryland campaign finance fund set up in 1974 but never used until this year. The money came from income tax checkoffs. Candidates can receive a $1 match for every $2 raised in qualifying donations.

Sources within the campaign predicted that Mrs. Sauerbrey will have $200,000 in qualifying contributions in hand by July 15, the deadline to apply for the matching funds. If so, she would add $100,000 to her treasury almost immediately. As she raised more during the primary, she would get more matching funds.

Mrs. Sauerbrey was campaigning in Frederick yesterday and could not be reached for comment. Carol L. Hirschburg, her fund-raising consultant, called the figures "substantially correct."

The money that put Mrs. Sauerbrey over the top came from a spill-over crowd of 700 supporters who packed the Turf Valley Country Club in Ellicott City for a $100-a-head fund-raiser last DTC Tuesday. For $500 each, guests met the evening's dinner speaker, Jack F. Kemp, the former New York congressman and housing secretary for President George Bush who is being touted as a presidential candidate in 1996.

Mr. Kemp, an old friend of Mrs. Sauerbrey, enthusiastically sang the candidate's praises, though he stopped just short of endorsing her. His remarks were so glowing that many at the event believed he had given her the nod.

"Ellen Sauerbrey is [a candidate] . . . of impeccable credentials [who] understands the issues of this state," Mr. Kemp, a Bethesda resident, told a cheering audience. "Oh, do we need Ellen Sauerbrey."

To qualify for matching funds, state elections officials must certify that a gubernatorial candidate has raised at least $150,000 in qualifying contributions between Sept. 1, 1993, and July 15, 1994. The contributions must be from individuals -- not corporations or political action committees. Counted are contributions of $250 or less, or the first $250 of larger donations.

The only other gubernatorial candidate who has expressed a desire to apply for the state funds is Republican William S. Shepard, a retired diplomat from Montgomery County who was the party's nominee in 1990. But Mr. Shepard conceded fund-raising problems yesterday, saying, "I'm not sure we'll be able to [qualify.]"

A spokesman for Mrs. Bentley said she has not decided whether to apply for the matching funds. Her press secretary, Key Kidder, described the congresswoman's fund-raising efforts as "great" but refused to say how much she has raised. At a single event in February, Mrs. Bentley, a five-term congresswoman from Baltimore County, raised an estimated $200,000.

Candidates who apply for the public funds must agree to limit their spending to slightly less than $1 million in the primary and to the same limit again in the general election. If Mrs. Bentley believes she can raise more than that, she is likely to forgo the matching funds so that she may spend more on her campaign.

Marvin L. Meyn, deputy administrator of the state elections board, said that if a candidate receives matching funds for the primary and wins, the law does not appear to require him or her to raise additional private money to qualify for up to $1 million more in public funds for the general election.

Because the law is silent on the issue, he said, he has asked the attorney general's office to review it and issue an opinion.

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