Gore collects $200,000 at first Md. fund-raiser

$1,000-a-head reception held at Chevy Chase home of Democratic donors

May 12, 1999|By David Folkenflik | David Folkenflik,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

CHEVY CHASE -- In the midst of a week of heavy fund raising, Vice President Al Gore collected more than $200,000 toward his 2000 presidential bid last night with a $1,000-a-head reception at the home of two Maryland Democratic donors.

More than 200 people, including politicians and party activists, were served white wine and wild mushroom tartlets at the home of Michael and Susan Gelman.

In a 15-minute speech, Gore hailed the performance of the economy under the Clinton administration and called for more spending on public education and health care. America, he said, needs to do more to ensure that everyone shares in the country's wealth and well-being.

Alluding to the school massacre in Littleton, Colo., Gore said: "We need revolutionary changes, not only in education but also in the way we define ourselves in the national community -- the way we reach out to each other, the way we create a sense of America so that everybody can belong."

Yesterday marked the start of a week of fund-raising by the vice president. First, Gore met supporters in McLean, Va., for a $1,000-a-person lunch that was intended to raise $150,000. Then came last night's reception -- his first fund-raiser in Maryland for the 2000 race.

Today, Gore will head to Memphis for a fund-raiser in his native Tennessee. Tomorrow, he will travel to North Carolina for a lunch in Charlotte and a dinner in Raleigh. After spending the weekend in Iowa, home of the nation's first presidential caucuses, Gore will fly to Boston for a "gala dinner."

During the first three months of 1999, the vice president had raised $8.8 million for his campaign, outpacing a slew of Republican contenders and his sole Democratic rival, former Sen. Bill Bradley of New Jersey. Bradley collected $4.3 million. Gov. George W. Bush of Texas, the front-runner in the race for the Republican nomination, pulled in $7.6 million.

The next three months are considered crucial. To pay for television ads nationwide during next spring's unusually compact primary schedule, Gore will need the backing of a lot of people like the Gelmans.

During the 1996 and 1998 elections, the Gelmans contributed about $70,000 to Democratic candidates and committees -- much of it in unregulated "soft money" donations to party accounts. Such contributions are highly prized because donors can give unlimited amounts that can be used for expensive TV ads that stress a candidate's campaign themes.

Peter G. Angelos, the Orioles owner, gave the Democrats $100,000 in soft money this year.

The Gelmans held a similar event in September 1992 for the Clinton-Gore ticket, and Susan Gelman volunteers one day a week for Tipper Gore, the vice president's wife.

Michael Gelman was appointed by President Clinton to the board of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and by Gov. Parris N. Glendening to the University System of Maryland board of regents.

This year, the Gelmans gave $2,000 apiece toward Gore's campaign. But their value to his campaign stems just as much from their ability to get other people to contribute as their own deep pockets.

The Gore campaign is "making a very strong effort to bring new people on board," said Nathan Landow, a former Maryland Democratic Party chairman who said he helped solicit $50,000 in donations for last night's reception.

Among the Maryland Democrats who attended the reception were Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Rep. Steny H. Hoyer and Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan.

Pub Date: 5/12/99

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