Thieves broke into the campaign headquarters of U.S. Senate candidate Ron Franks early yesterday and stole three computers containing invaluable data.
A laser printer, video camera and four cassettes containing shots of Dr. Franks' stump speeches also were taken from the headquarters, in the basement of a house on Ritchie Highway in Pasadena. The videos were to be used in televisions ads before the primary in September.
"That's kind of irreplaceable," said Dr. Franks, a member of the Maryland House of Delegates and an Eastern Shore dentist. He is one of several candidates running in the Republican primary for the seat held by U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, a Democrat.
Dr. Franks said the burglary was "very precise. They came in and got the most valuable things: the computers, the camera, some stamps." He stressed that he has no reason to suspect a political motive.
Campaign workers weren't sure yesterday whether the loss is covered by insurance. Even if it is, they said they can't wait for the insurance company to issue a check.
The loss of the computers, which contained the names and addresses of volunteers and campaign contributors, threw the campaign into unexpected turmoil yesterday.
"It's going to cost a lot of money to replace this, money we don't have because this is a grass-roots campaign," said Jennifer Light, who manages the campaign office. "All our volunteers, all our mailing lists, we've got to start over."
She spent the day trying to reconstruct the lost information.
"Please, just return the video tapes and the floppy discs," she said to whoever stole the equipment. "You can have everything else."
Ms. Light discovered the burglary had occurred when she opened the office yesterday morning.
"I was in tears," she said. "This is a mess, an absolute mess."
Ms. Light and Dr. Franks worked until about midnight Thursday to get out a mailing. Police discovered the office had been burglarized about 2 a.m. The intruder entered by breaking a window in the door, police said.
The break-in came at a particularly bad time for the campaign.
"It's never a good time to be burglarized," Dr. Franks. "But in a political campaign when things are starting to heat up, it's especially a bad time, because we're coming into the final push."
"We'll recover," Dr. Franks said. "We will get back on our feet again."