Gov. Parris N. Glendening has the early edge in fund raising over his likely opponent in the November election, but Ellen R. Sauerbrey has made a strong showing by raising what is believed to be a record amount for a Republican candidate in Maryland.
Glendening has raised nearly $3.9 million and has $2.1 million of it on hand for his re-election bid, while Sauerbrey has pulled in almost $3 million, with about $1.4 million still available to spend, according to campaign finance reports filed yesterday at the state election board in Annapolis.
Sauerbrey and running mate Richard D. Bennett raised more money over the past nine months than Glendening and Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. Since the last reports were filed in November, Sauerbrey and Bennett raised $1.9 million, compared with nearly $1.8 million raised by the Democratic incumbents.
Political analysts believe that the $700,000 advantage Glendening enjoys in cash on hand could allow him to advertise on television sooner than Sauerbrey.
But generally the view is that she can make up that difference and, with 11 weeks to go until the Nov. 3 general election, the two candidates are on near-equal footing.
"You've got to have the resources to battle it out in the big fight, and this basically says they're operating with about the same mega-tonnage to launch the volleys," said Keith Haller, president of Potomac Research Inc., a Bethesda polling firm.
Both candidates face what is considered minimal opposition in the Sept. 15 primary elections, allowing them to marshal their forces for a showdown in November -- a rematch of the 1994 race that Sauerbrey lost to Glendening by just 5,993 votes.
Townsend tapped into a nationwide network of family friends and admirers to raise $489,610 for her slate. Bennett raised $157,845 in the few weeks since Sauerbrey chose him as her running mate.
Some of those contributions were apparently donated to take advantage of an interpretation of Maryland law that allows contributors to avoid the usual limit -- $4,000 to a campaign -- by giving another $4,000 to a gubernatorial candidate's running mate.
Among those who made use of that provision were members of the family of Eastern Shore chicken mogul Frank Perdue, a 1994 Glendening contributor who is throwing his financial weight behind Sauerbrey this year.
Together, Perdue and his wife Mitzi donated $15,000 to the Sauerbrey ticket, while son James Perdue gave $1,000. Two sons of Mitzi Perdue by a previous marriage are listed as having given $8,000 each.
Glendening apparently made a $32,000 political enemy by pushing through a program in this year's legislative session to fight the toxic microbe Pfiesteria, a program criticized by the chicken industry.
Glendening and Sauerbrey campaign spokesmen said they were pleased with the fund-raising efforts so far.
"This is a competitive race, and we have the cash on hand and the fund-raising ability to do what it takes to win," said Peter S. Hamm, the Glendening spokesman.
Hamm said he was not concerned by the amount Sauerbrey has been able to raise in a state where Democratic voters outnumber Republicans by nearly 2-to-1.
"We have $900,000 more than she has raised -- and more than $700,000 more cash on hand," Hamm said. Unlike Sauerbrey, he said, Glendening as the incumbent was prohibited from raising money during the 90-day legislative session.
Jim Dornan, the Sauerbrey spokesman, was surprised that Glendening had not raised more money, which he said, "speaks volumes about his weaknesses and Ellen's strength."
"The business community has responded very well to Ellen's message of deregulation and lower taxes," Dornan said. "This will make us very competitive."
He and GOP party regulars said they believe the $3 million amount is a record for a Republican candidate in a statewide race.
Glendening's most serious opposition in the Democratic primary, Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann, withdrew last week, citing a lack of money.
Reports filed yesterday showed that she had just $14,844 left of the nearly $1.3 million she had raised. Much of the money went to direct mail, signs and advertising, while $71,000 was paid to her campaign manager, Larry S. Gibson.
Another one-time candidate for governor, Montgomery County businessman Raymond F. Schoenke Jr., lent his campaign more than $2.8 million. Schoenke also raised $250,000 before dropping out last month.
Two candidates remain in the Democratic primary to challenge Glendening. Terry McGuire, a Davidsonville physician, has $449,915 in cash on hand. He lent his campaign $500,000 and later repaid himself $40,000. McGuire raised about $61,000 in mostly small contributions.
The election board had not received a report from Democrat Lawrence K. Freeman, a follower of Lyndon LaRouche, by close of business yesterday.
Sauerbrey's foe in the Republican primary, Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker, has raised $254,612 and spent nearly all of it. Ecker has just $25,428 in cash on hand.