Gelfman, Smith are well financed Challengers raise more funds than do incumbent judges

February 29, 1996|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

An article in yesterday's Howard County edition of The Sun incorrectly characterized the campaign contributions of Columbia attorney Vincent M. Guida and of the law firm of Lloyd, Kane, Wieder and Willis. Mr. Guida gave $155 to the campaign of District Judge Lenore R. Gelfman and Columbia attorney Jonathan Scott Smith. The law firm of Lloyd et. al. gave Judge Gelfman and Mr. Smith $810.

The Sun regrets the error.

When it comes to financial support, District Judge Lenore R. Gelfman and Columbia attorney Jonathan Scott Smith are well positioned in Tuesday's primary vote for two Howard County Circuit Court judgeships.

From Jan. 31 to Feb. 18 -- the term covered by the candidates' most recent campaign finance reports -- the two challengers raised $29,667 from 265 donors. That was more than four times the amount raised during the same period by incumbent circuit judges Donna Hill Staton and Diane O. Leasure. Even before February, the bitter judicial contest alreadywas the most expensive in the county's history by far. Through Feb. 18 -- more than two weeks before the primary vote -- the five candidates have reported raising a total of about $158,000.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

Judges Hill Staton and Leasure were appointed to the bench last November. They're being challenged by Judge Gelfman, Mr. Smith and Columbia resident Jay Fred Cohen, an attorney with an office in Pikesville. Unlike the others, Mr. Cohen is spending little. Mr. Cohen has received an in-kind contribution of $1,034 and $710 from contributors. He also has lent himself $1,500 for a total of $3,243.

That pales in contrast with the $154,691 raised by the other two slates -- $71,128 for Judges Hill Staton and Leasure, and $83,563 for Judge Gelfman and Mr. Smith.

The circuit judgeship pays $93,500 a year.

Included among the fund-raising totals are campaign loans of $17,500 each from Judge Gelfman and Mr. Smith and $12,000 each from Judges Leasure and Hill Staton that were reported earlier.

On their latest campaign expense report, the challengers also reported receiving a total of $28,833 in contributions from a $60-a-person fund-raiser held at a Marriottsville country club Feb. 10 -- their single largest source of outside contributions.

The largest contribution to the sitting judges was $1,000 from a Baltimore political action committee made up of trial attorneys, most of whom represent plaintiffs in auto accidents.

Though the race is nonpartisan, the Gelfman-Smith team appears to be striking a responsive chord among GOP contributors. According to the slate's latest finance report filed with the state last Friday, among the ticket buyers at their Feb. 10 fund-raiser included:

* Beverly M. Wilhide and Gail H. Bates, top aides to County Executive Charles I. Ecker, a Republican, and William A. Thies Jr., a third Ecker appointee. Also listed is Hugh J. Forton, one of Mr. Ecker's paid consultants in his 1994 re-election campaign.

* Council member Charles C. Feaga and State's Attorney Marna McLendon, both Republicans.

* Chares E. "Ted" Peck, the retired chief executive officer of the Ryland Group, who led fund raising for GOP gubernatorial nominee Ellen R. Sauerbrey in 1994. He bought $480 worth of tickets.

By comparison, The sitting judges gained most of their financial support funding from attorneys. According to their finance report, the two received $6,725 during the most recent 19-day reporting period, including:

* $1,000 from the trial lawyers' political action group. "We want to keep politics out of government decisions," said Leo Dymowski, chairman of the Citizens Rights Committee PAC. "We don't think judges should be running likefor office like common politicians."

* $155 from attorney Vincent M. Guida. Lin Eagan, the wife of Mr. Guida's law partner, is the sitting judges' campaign manager.

* $880 from the law firm of Lloyd, Kane, Wieder and Willis. Thomas E. Lloyd, a partner in the firm, is a former co-chairman of the bar association's judicial selection committee.

The sitting judges' campaign has spent a fourth of its money -- $18,416 -- on cable TV ads. The Gelfman-Smith campaign has spent $14,000 on cable ads, and Mr. Cohen has spent $1,107.

The Gelfman-Smith camp also paid $1,200 to have former Baltimore Colt Art Donovan act as master of ceremonies at its Feb. 10 fund-raiser.

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