GOP race is 'down to the wire' Executive hopefuls Feaga and Schrader are only $2,000 apart

'Same stack of gold'

N. Laurel councilman spent twice as much on polls and TV ads

August 19, 1998|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

Facing a tough political battle, Howard County Councilman Charles C. Feaga yesterday disclosed that he has raised almost $103,000 in campaign funds, with more than $50,000 remaining four weeks before the Sept. 15 Republican primary for county executive.

Feaga's remaining amount is about $2,000 less than what his primary opponent, first-term Councilman Dennis R. Schrader, has left to spend, according to the campaign fund report Schrader filed last week. Yesterday was the deadline for local and state candidates to file financial reports.

The narrow gap between the two Republicans' funds illustrates the tightness of the race to succeed County Executive Charles I. Ecker.

"They have the same stack of gold," said media consultant Roger Caplan. "This is going to be a battle down to the wire."

Feaga's campaign appeared to receive a boost with the endorsement of the African Americans in Howard County Political Action Committee.

Sherman Howell, vice president of the organization, said the group chose Feaga over Schrader because the 12-year council member has supported residential projects -- such as the Rouse Co.'s proposal in North Laurel -- that offer low- and moderate-income housing.

"He helped provide leadership to get that proposal passed," Howell said. "Without the support of Feaga, we would've lost that opportunity."

Feaga, who was criticized two months ago for failing to appear at a forum sponsored by the organization, said he was pleased by the endorsement. "My reputation stands for what I believe in," he said. "They know that I can be trusted. I appreciate their support."

Schrader said the news did not disappoint him. "We do not pursue special-interest endorsements," he said. "I don't expect a lot of [those types of] endorsements anyway."

The winner of the Republican primary will face former police chief James N. Robey, who is running unopposed in the Democratic primary. Of the $51,000 that Robey has raised, less than $16,000 remains.

Schrader raised nearly $60,000 more than Feaga, according to campaign data. Feaga, a West Friendship farmer who represents the western region of the county, appears to have fallen short of his fund-raising expectations.

Also, Schrader, a hospital executive who represents North Laurel and a portion of southern Columbia, has paid for polls and television ads at a rate double what Feaga has spent.

Known as a legislator who champions the rights of individual property owners, Feaga was rewarded by developers, who gave his campaign $10,910 -- 11.3 percent of his total contributions.

Feaga, who has been criticized by some residents as being too favorable toward growth, said he makes no apologies for courting developers. "I'm very proud of everyone who came to my fund-raisers to make a difference," he said. "I don't turn any help down unless I come across something very unusual."

A majority of the donations come from a network of relatives, friends and local public figures.

In all, Feaga received contributions from 395 donors. "I went three years without a fund-raiser, while Dennis has had one every year," said Feaga, who began his campaign months after Schrader started raising funds. "I don't like to push people too hard."

Feaga's reluctance to aggressively seek funds caused political observers to wonder whether he could keep up with his younger, more media-conscious opponent.

"Traditionally, Charlie doesn't believe in going out and raising a whole lot of money," Caplan said. "He runs a good, old-fashioned campaign. For Charlie, he has done a real nice job with the money that he has raised."

Caplan said the next four weeks are critical -- not in terms of how much money each candidate has, but how he spends it.

"The questions, in my opinion, are, how do they get the message out, and what form of media will they use, and what is the message?" Caplan said. "This is what it boils down to."

Carol Arscott, a GOP consultant who is advising Schrader, agreed. "There's so much more to this than just money," she said. "It's delivering our message to the voters."

Pub Date: 8/19/98

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