Out of the gate for campaign '98 Raising funds: More than six months before the 1996 general election, the money game for future campaigns already is well under way.

The Political Game

March 12, 1996|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,SUN STAFF

IT'S A GO for Joe.

Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr., who is in his third term as the state's top lawyer, is running again in 1998 and getting a jump on the campaign.

Mr. Curran, 64, held a $100-a-head fund-raiser Saturday on the Fells Point set of "Homicide/Life on The Street," the successful television show inspired by former Sun reporter David Simon's book.

About 400 people stopped by to help him begin raising money for the next time out.

"This paid off the last few debts from [the 1994 race] and gave me some seed money for 1998," Mr. Curran said.

"In terms of a campaign strategy, it's better to let everyone know you like your job and that you very much want to continue," he said. "I do know that if you don't let your intentions be known, you can open the door to a primary challenge."

And, based on 1994, he should have concerns about a primary challenge.

He spent half the money he raised in the last election cycle defeating Eleanor M. Carey in the Democratic primary before taking on Republican Richard D. Bennett, the former U.S. attorney, in a bitter fight in the general.

While Mr. Curran seems to be getting an early start -- the election is still more than 2 1/2 years away -- he is not alone.

It seems to be the season for fund raising.

Consider these:

* Two weeks ago, Anne Arundel County Executive John G. Gary, a Republican first-termer, had an all-star cast at his $250-a-plate fund-raiser in Baltimore.

The "Baltimore Tribute to John Gary" at the Center Club featured as co-hosts two old political hands -- though unlikely allies -- in former Gov. William Donald Schaefer, a Democrat, and former U.S. Rep. Marjorie S. Holt, a Republican from Maryland's old 4th District.

* Last week, Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann, who is in her second term and cannot run again, held a $500-a-ticket fund-raiser geared toward a 1998 bid for state comptroller.

Ms. Rehrmann is publicly mum on the subject of what office she might be seeking, but it is no secret she would like to succeed 10-term Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein, who turns 83 on Thursday.

A two-term legislator who served on the House Appropriations Committee before running for county executive in 1990, she would be a tough candidate in the Democratic primary.

* And tonight, Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger III is holding a fund-raiser, with tickets costing $100 and $500.

Mr. Ruppersberger, who has gubernatorial aspirations, is keeping his options open for 1998, although a re-election bid is probably in the offing.

(Of course, Gov. Parris N. Glendening, the Almost-$6 Million Man in the 1994 governor's race, never stopped raising money after taking office in a wise effort to ward off all comers.)

But Mr. Ruppersberger is not alone in dreaming about the Second Floor of the State House. With him in the Democratic wings are Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, the former Rockville mayor, and Maryland House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. of Allegany County.

As of last week, however, Mr. Taylor could have a leg up on Mr. Ruppersberger and Mr. Duncan.

He strongly supported Del. Elijah E. Cummings, his speaker pro tem, for the 7th District congressional seat. And with Mr. Cummings' win in last Tuesday's Democratic primary, Mr. Taylor now has entree into vote-rich Baltimore City.

Speculation picking up over Cummings replacement

Del. Elijah E. Cummings, the winner of the Democratic primary for the 7th Congressional District, will face nominal GOP opposition in the April 16 special election to complete Rep. Kweisi Mfume's unexpired term on Capitol Hill.

And already, West Baltimore's 44th District is abuzz with talk of his replacement in the Maryland General Assembly.

Mentioned early and often as a possible successor is newcomer bTC Traci K. Miller, the city prosecutor who ran for the 7th District seat and impressed the political establishment and citizenry with her message, polish and energy. In fact, Mr. Cummings all but named Ms. Miller during the campaign, when asked at a forum what type of person he would like to see succeed him.

And support exists among leaders in the city delegation to put someone such as Ms. Miller, a young lawyer with a strong voice, into the legislative seat. But in the days since last week's election, a few other names have emerged, including those of the Rev. Norman A. Handy Sr., the 6th District city councilman; Elaine R. McCloud, a member of the city's Democratic Central Committee; and T. Michael Scales, another central committee member and close associate of State Sen. Larry Young, the district leader.

A comeback by former Del. John D. Jefferies, who was edged out of his seat in the 1994 Democratic primary, has been mentioned as a possibility.

Mr. Young controls at least three of the five votes on the 44th District's central committee, which will elect Mr. Cummings' replacement.

He apparently has not made up his mind, but is said to be leaning away from Ms. Miller.

Stay tuned.

Pub Date: 3/12/96

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