Election money keeps flowing GOP executive race gets most donations

August 17, 1998|By Gady A. Epstein | Gady A. Epstein,SUN STAFF

With substantial help from commercial developers and technology companies, GOP County Council member Dennis R. Schrader has raised $161,500 in his bid for county executive, with nearly $52,000 remaining for his Sept. 15 primary showdown with 12-year Councilman Charles C. Feaga, according to new campaign data.

Feaga has yet to submit his campaign finance report and would not estimate last week how much money he has collected, but Schrader, who is running a more expensive campaign, is believed to have outraised the West Friendship farmer by tens of thousands of dollars. Tomorrow is the filing deadline for candidates' finance reports.

Democratic executive candidate James N. Robey has raised more than $50,000 in his first run for public office, drawing heavily from supporters he has forged relationships with during his decades as a county resident, police officer and police chief. Running without primary op- position, Robey says he is ready to step beyond that base and ask the business community and others for contributions.

Businesses have already been emptying their pockets for the GOP contenders, who are vying to succeed Republican County Executive Charles I. Ecker and continue the party's reign atop Howard County politics.

Developers give

The development community, long a big-money player in local races, has been particularly active in giving to both candidates, though Schrader may have been snubbed by some residential developers for his more cautious stance on homebuilding.

Schrader, a first-term council member representing North Laurel and part of southern Columbia, raised the majority of his money last year in an aggressive early effort to establish his candidacy. The report filed Friday details $71,700 in contributions he received since the last campaign finance reports were filed at the end of November.

One-third of the money raised since November came from developers or people who make money from development, such as engineers, contractors and architects. Several technology companies also contributed thousands of dollars.

Schrader's report lists contributions from well over 350 donors, including supporters he has courted since his first, failed run for council in 1990.

"I just see the whole process of raising money as an element of working hard," said Schrader, who has knocked on the doors of more than 3,000 Republican voters as part of a multipronged campaign geared toward "hitting" each primary voter seven times.

Robey, meanwhile, has not yet asked the business community for money.

Instead, the former police chief said, he has focused on RTC grass-roots politicking and tapping into his base for money since kicking off his campaign in January.

His finance report filed Friday reflects that, with more than 20 percent of his money -- at least $10,500 -- coming from current or former county employees and their families.

At least $4,500 more came from Democratic committees, party activists, candidates and former Democratic officials. Of the $51,000 he's raised, he has less than $16,000 left, the report said.

The good news for Robey is that he, like Schrader, has well over 350 donors. He also said that as much as $6,000 flowed in last week since the campaign stopped counting donations for this report. And he said he's just getting started.

"We're moving into the next phase of our fund raising," Robey said Friday. "We're at the point now where we'll start having major fund-raisers, and where I go out and ask for money, which I haven't done yet."

Waiting for primary

Media consultant Roger Caplan said Robey may find it easier to raise money and win backers after the Feaga-Schrader race.

"Jim has a lot to gain in the Republican primary," Caplan said. "It's a very highly charged [primary] election. I think he has the potential of picking up some of the supporters of the defeated candidate."

However, Caplan said because Robey has never served in elected office, potential donors won't have a clear idea of how Robey will lead unless he articulates a clear message.

Robey acknowledged it may be more difficult for him to raise money because Schrader and Feaga both have track records as political officeholders: "Maybe they're not sure of me that much yet."

But he is nevertheless "very confident" he will raise somewhere between $150,000 and $200,000, which political observers say would be enough to mount a real campaign against whoever wins the primary.

"I've made a lot of contacts over the years as chief of police, and I never ever thought that I'd use those contacts to go out and raise money for a campaign," Robey said. "But I'm going to."

Pub Date: 8/17/98

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