Ehrlich's campaign kitty roars 1st-term incumbent has far more funds than nearest rival

Campaign 1996

February 02, 1996|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

With a little more than a year in office under his belt, Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. is sitting on a pile of campaign money -- tens of thousands more than his rivals -- as he begins his bid for re-election to the 2nd District Congressional seat.

Heading into the March 5 primary, the Republican this week reported raising $271,367 in 1995, with $139,264 left on the final reporting day, Dec. 31.

That's about seven times more than his nearest rival from either party.

Connie Galiazzo DeJuliis, a Democrat, says her campaign has raised about $20,000 since she announced her candidacy Dec. 26. That fund-raising all came after the filing deadline for campaign finance reports, however.

Joseph John Bish, a Harford County Democrat and Ms. DeJuliis' nearest rival, says he has raised $7,140 so far.

Both Ms. DeJuliis, who finished second in the 1994 Democratic primary for the seat, and Mr. Ehrlich are confident of winning their primaries, and are organizing for the long haul to the November general election. The 2nd District covers Harford County, eastern Baltimore County and a small part of northern Anne Arundel County.

Meanwhile, the low-budget candidates are working political clubs, passing out campaign materials and awaiting their respective five minutes of time on a Maryland Public Television program on Feb. 18.

But if Mr. Ehrlich's kitty, which includes $51,861 from political action committees, seems like a lot, Republican candidate Josef Thurston of Jarrettsville is undaunted.

The 26-year-old Towson State University senior, who works as a private security guard, already has two of his own television commercials ready to air.

His approach is unusual for a candidate without much money.

The fresh-faced, earnest-looking conservative says he paid $1,200 to produce each of the 30-second commercials about himself. He has enough money, he says, to pay for one or two airings of the ads and hopes to get more before the primary.

He did not raise the minimum $5,000 by Dec. 31 to require a Federal Elections Commission campaign finance report, however.

"At least I'll have name recognition," said Mr. Thurston, a former Democrat.

He is critical of the political action committee money that Mr. Ehrlich has raised, as well as the incumbent's support of abortion rights and his "union-bashing." Freshmen Republicans, he adds, are too quick to follow House Speaker Newt Gingrich's confrontational style rather than compromising to get a balanced budget.

Mr. Ehrlich rejects those criticisms, and says he plans no television blitz before the primary.

"PACs are a way to keep corporate money out of a campaign. That was the great reform [after Watergate]. PACs are people," Mr. Ehrlich said, citing people such as teachers and workers who can pool contributions to make a bigger impact.

As for the budget talks, he says, freshmen members of Congress have to depend on party leaders to negotiate with President Clinton.

He predicted that talks between Republicans and conservative Democrats may yet produce enough votes to get a balanced federal budget without the president's backing.

Other Democrats running in the primary are community activist/nursing student Christopher C. Boardman of Joppa; Kauko H. Kokkonen, a men's rights advocate; James A. Young of Severna Park, and Gilbert Peter Muirhead of Towson.

Other Republicans are Dundalk businessman Russell Mirabile and Walter Boyd, a retired state correctional officer from Lutherville.

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