Huge gap in coffers shapes 7th race Cummings, far ahead in campaign funds, plans media blitz

February 28, 1996|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

Del. Elijah E. Cummings far outdistanced the field in fund raising in the race for the 7th Congressional District seat, taking in more than $220,000 -- nearly twice that of the nearest candidate -- during the latest reporting period.

Mr. Cummings spent $99,665, less than half of his total contributions for the period ending Feb. 14 covered in the report, leaving him with $121,915 in cash on hand, plenty of money for a last-minute media blitz before Tuesday's the March 5 primary.

And The campaign has taken in another $40,000 since the report was filed, said Julius Henson, Mr. Cumming's campaign manager.

The second highest fund-raiser, the Rev. Frank M. Reid III, took in $112,024, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.

The money advantage gives Mr. Cummings an edge considered to be especially important in a short wintertime campaign with a field of 27 Democrats running to fill the seat vacated by Kweisi Mfume.

"They say money can't buy you love, but it may well buy you a congressional seat in a compressed campaign with a crowd of little-known candidates," said Herbert C. Smith, a Western Maryland College political science professor who closely follows Baltimore politics.

Candidate totals fall off sharply after Mr. Cummings and Mr. Dr. Reid. State Sen. Delores G. Kelley took in $58,274 and lent her campaign another $30,300. Attorney A. Dwight Pettit raised $13,725 and lent his campaign $65,400 in personal funds. Del. Salima Siler Marriott's contributions totaled $16,735 for this reporting period and $25,220 for the campaign. Del. Kenneth C. Montague Jr. raised $12,319. And the Rev. Arnold Howard took in $12,826.

Figures were not available for the other candidates, either because their forms have not been processed by the FEC or because they have not raised enough money to require them to file a report.

Of the $221,681 Mr. Cummings raised, a little more than $40,000 came from political action committees, most notably the American Medical Association PAC and the American Dental PAC, which gave him $5,000 each. the Citicorp Voluntary Political Fund, which gave $2,500, and the Transportation Political Education League, which gave $2,000.

Mr. Cummings received $8,950 from 32 out-of-state contributors and 74 individual contributions of $1,000, almost all of them from Marylanders. They included Mercantile Bankshares Chairman H. Furlong Baldwin; W. James Hindman, founder of Jiffy Lube franchises and chairman of Youth Services International; Raymond A. "Chip" Mason, chairman and chief executive of Legg Mason Inc.; developer Carl W. Struever, president of Struever Bros., Eccles & Rouse; and Baltimore businessman Calman J. "Buddy" Zamoiski.

Mr. Henson, Mr. Cummings' campaign manager, claimed said the money gives him such an advantage over the other candidates that the end result in the election will not even be close. The cash will be used to buy extensive television time on three expensive network affiliates in the last days of the campaign, something a blitz that nobody else will be able to match, Mr. Henson said.

"This is a media race," he said. "It costs money to go on television. It costs money to go on radio. It costs money to do direct mail. This is the dead of winter. What are we going to do? Knock on doors?"

Officials from some of the other campaigns said it was Mr. Cummings' connections in the House of Delegates, where he serves as speaker pro tem, that gave him an advantage in fund raising.

"The leadership of the House of Delegates was mobilized around him," Ms. Marriott said. "He was their candidate."

Mr. Cummings raised nearly $50,000 at a $250-a-ticket breakfast in Annapolis last month sponsored by two of the most powerful committee chairmen in the House and attended by lobbyists and business leaders. The breakfast aroused controversy because delegates running for re-election are prohibited from fund-raising during the 90-day legislative session under a 1988 ethics policy, but exceptions have been made since 1994 for those running for LTC congressional, statewide and local races.

In addition to the $112,024 in contributions, Mr. Dr. Reid lent his campaign an additional $35,000. He had about $35,000 in outstanding debt for unpaid bills, with only $8,659 in cash on hand.

Arnold Williams, Mr. Dr. Reid's treasurer, said his campaign has taken in another $35,000 since the report was filed and he hopes to raise $200,000 by the time the race is over. "We think that we're in good shape, but we also think we're going to be outspent," Mr. Williams said. "I think Reverend Reid's name recognition is pretty high so we should not have to outspend the Cummings campaign."

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