Gary sets record for fund raising for county executive Incumbent reports collecting $566,302 for re-election bid

August 20, 1998|By Tom Pelton | Tom Pelton,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County Executive John G. Gary has smashed the county's record for raising campaign money, collecting $566,302 with seven of his 10 largest donors from the development industry.

Campaign finance reports released yesterday show that the Republican has almost 10 times the amount of cash in the bank ($231,301) as his most prominent challenger, Democrat Diane R. Evans ($23,992), and more than 100 times that of his other opponent, Democrat Janet Owens ($1,536).

Gary's fund-raising prowess is third-best among county executives running for re-election statewide, behind Baltimore County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger's $1.3 million and Prince George's County Executive Wayne Curry's $1.1 million, according to campaign finance records.

Gary's total broke the record of $475,000 in campaign funds raised by a candidate for Anne Arundel County executive set eight years ago by state Sen. Robert R. Neall, an Anne Arundel Republican. Gary's campaign expects to raise another $100,000 by November.

An analysis of campaign data by The Sun shows that half of Gary's 10 largest contributors are companies that perform engineering or contracting work for county government construction projects.

Gary's campaign treasurer, George Shenk Jr., said yesterday that the generosity of developers and county contractors reflects an age-old advantage of incumbents: businesses with projects in the county want to invest in a system that has helped them earn money.

"It is a perceived part of how to do business," said Shenk. "But John Gary has never extended a favor to anybody because of what they've donated. I keep John very separate from the campaign contributions."

Shenk said that if one looks at the total amount donated to Gary's campaign, no more than a third comes from the development industry. This could not be immediately confirmed yesterday.

But Gary's opponents were quick to assert that the big money from developers show that Gary is a friend of the building industry. Critics also claimed that companies that want work from the county feel compelled to cough up political contributions.

"In Mr. Gary's administration, you have to pay to play," said Maury Chaput, manager of the Evans campaign, which has raised a total of $130,679.

Evans, former chairman of the county council, noted that her campaign has returned contributions larger than $1,000 -- one quarter the limit set by state law -- to avoid the perception that people could buy influence with her.

"It takes more effort to raise money that way," Evans said. "I knew that [Gary] had a very large war chest, but it has not deterred me at all."

Owens, former director of the county housing authority who is challenging Evans in a Sept. 15 primary, was shocked to hear how much Gary has raised.

"What does he have? Oh, God!" said Owens, who has raised $50,944 but spent almost all of it. "Anne Arundel County is up for sale. There are a lot of cynics out there who think Gary is doing favors for these developers."

There was a bit of mystery yesterday surrounding the fact that Evans' campaign disclosure forms were not on file with state election officials in Annapolis. The law says the forms had to be post-marked or in the election offices yesterday.

Shenk, Gary's campaign manager, said that Evans was trying to keep her reports out of today's newspapers because she was embarrassed by her failure to raise much money.

But Chaput, Evans' campaign chief, said that their treasurer didn't have the time to drive the forms from Severna Park to Annapolis and mailed them from the Severna Park post office.

"It wasn't late," said Chaput, who faxed The Sun a summary of Evans' receipts. "We just don't have the paid staff the Gary campaign has."

The 10 largest donors to the Gary campaign were: Reliable Contracting Co. of Millersville, which gave $4,000; G & L Associates of Millersville, $4,000; the lobbyist Charles A. Dukes Jr., $4,000; the County Utilities Corp. of Baltimore, $3,825; Messick and Associates engineers of Annapolis, $3,500; Buck Distributing Inc. liquor company of Upper Marlboro, $3,300; Heery Inc. engineering firm of Landover, $3,170; Brandywine Enterprises rubble landfill company of Fairmont Heights, $3,000; McCrone Inc. engineers of Annapolis, $2,900; and the Dunkirk Business Center of Owings Mills, $2,750.

The Middle River Racing Association, which has changed its name to Chesapeake Motor Sports Development Corp. and is trying to build an auto race track in northern Anne Arundel County, gave Gary $1,000. Another racing-related business, Thunder Bay Motorsports of Lutherville, donated $1,250.

Pub Date: 8/20/98

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