Raising funds with eye on 2002

The Political Game

Target: In their efforts to accumulate campaign money, most local and state politicians are working toward three years in the future, although many don't know the office they will seek.

June 01, 1999|By Thomas W. Waldron and Candus Thomson | Thomas W. Waldron and Candus Thomson,SUN STAFF

THERE'S AN ELECTION looming, and candidates are raising money aggressively across Maryland.

No, not the election for mayor in Baltimore this fall or the presidential election next year. For most state and local politicians, the big dance comes in 2002.

More than three years before the election, a host of candidates are intently raising money this spring and summer. Banned by law from raising money during the General Assembly session that ended in April, dozens of candidates are looking to build up an early bankroll.

Many of the people who have their hands outstretched don't know exactly which office they'll be seeking.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening is holding a fund-raiser Thursday evening, with some tickets going for $4,000 apiece -- and he isn't likely to run again for office. Rather, he is amassing a huge political fund for events such as the Democratic National Convention next year.

It's also not clear which office Comptroller William Donald Schaefer might seek in 2002, but he's having a $250-a-head breakfast next week. Prince George's County Executive Wayne K. Curry had a $1,000-a-ticket event last week at his house; he can't run for executive again but might be planning a race for governor.

Not every candidate can command such big ticket prices.

State Sen. John J. Hafer, a Republican, is having a July get-together at his farm in Western Maryland and charging $15, and Democratic Del. Jacob J. Mohorovic Jr.'s event Friday at a family restaurant in Dundalk costs $20.

A growing number of politicians are trying to inject a little fun into what are usually tedious affairs by using golf tournaments to raise money. This month, you could pay $100 for 18 holes and a little schmoozing with Sen. James E. DeGrange Sr., an Anne Arundel County Democrat.

As usual, nearly all candidates for state office include on their invitation list much of the State House lobbying corps, which can be counted on to pony up for most any fund-raiser.

"The invitations are floating all over the place around here," said one State House lobbyist.

Good-government advocates decry the dependence on lobbyists for fund raising, because it is those lobbyists who ask lawmakers for favors once they win office.

But the fund-raising pitches to lobbyists continue, and the checks continue to flow back.

Montgomery prosecutor explores political landscape

As a political newcomer last year, Douglas F. Gansler raised $240,000 and recruited 260 volunteers to work on his campaign for Montgomery County state's attorney.

He beat Robert Dean, the incumbent and hand-picked successor to Andrew L. Sonner, the county's top prosecutor for 27 years before being named to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. So, with a proven campaign machine, what does the 35-year-old boy wonder of Montgomery politics do for an encore?

Lawyers in Rockville point out that Gansler is traveling around Maryland to meet with his fellow state's attorneys -- this week in Baltimore County -- and speculate that Gansler's next move might be a run to become Maryland attorney general.

Gansler smiled at the idea but said he would never challenge Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr., a man he admires.

"The best thing I can do politically right now is be apolitical," Gansler said.

But he noted that Curran was elected to the job in 1986 "and nobody keeps a job forever."

"I'm not staying in this job forever, and Joe Curran isn't going to stay forever, and he has no heir apparent," Gansler added.

Two governors, 2 stadiums, a senior communities zinger

At a groundbreaking ceremony last week for a $250 million retirement community straddling the Montgomery-Prince George's county line, governors past and present were equal recipients of kudos and one good zinger.

Glendening and Schaefer sat side-by-side as John Erickson, founder of Senior Campus Living, described how the retirement community project came to be after six years of slogging through state and local bureaucracy.

Riderwood Village will mean 4,000 construction jobs and 1,300 permanent jobs, Erickson said proudly. When added to the company's other properties in Maryland, the economic impact is slightly less than $1 billion in senior housing provided and 5,000 employees serving 10,000 residents, he said.

Then, to the delight of the crowd, Erickson gently chided the two men who oversaw the building of the state's Camden Yards sport complex: "Maybe the state ought to invest in senior housing instead of stadiums -- eh, governors?"

For the record, Schaefer laughed heartily; Glendening smiled tightly.

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