Gore raises up to $400,000 in city visit

About 350 supporters cheer vice president

July 29, 1999|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

With strong support from Maryland's Democratic establishment, Vice President Al Gore breezed into Baltimore last night to raise an estimated $350,000 to $400,000 for his 2000 presidential campaign.

At least 350 supporters paid $1,000 a head for tickets to last night's event at the Port Discovery children's museum in downtown Baltimore, campaign officials said.

The fund-raiser attracted most of Maryland's top Democratic officeholders, including Gov. Parris N. Glendening and Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski and Paul S. Sarbanes.

Gore treated his supporters to an animated performance that sounded more like an early draft of a convention acceptance speech than the typical fund-raising boilerplate. He took obvious delight in tying Republicans to the health insurance industry and promising to take the power to take medical decisions away from "faceless bureaucrats working for an HMO."

The vice president contrasted economic conditions in Maryland during the last GOP administration with those under the Clinton administration, saying the state has gone from losing 16,000 jobs a year to gaining 40,000 annually. "Living standards are on the way up. Wages are on the way up. The economy's on a roll," Gore shouted. He derided Republican tax-cut proposals as "the hair of the dog that bit us" during the Reagan and Bush years.

The Democratic faithful were cheered at the contrast with Gore's image as a "wooden" campaigner. "He's as passionate as anyone that's passionate," said Maureen McManus, a party activist and fund-raiser.

Gore has become a familiar presence in the state since becoming vice president. "He relates very well to Maryland, and Maryland reacts historically very well to the vice president," said Alan M. Rifkin, a prominent Annapolis lobbyist who co-chaired the fund-raiser.

Gore, the presumptive Democratic front-runner, is facing a surprisingly strong primary challenge from former Sen. Bill Bradley of New Jersey. The vice president has been hurt by polls that show him trailing Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the Republican favorite.

Glendening said Democrats were concerned about the polls but added that eight years ago surveys were showing Bill Clinton running 35 points behind President Bush.

"I ask people over and over again to look at what this Clinton-Gore administration has done in terms of blocking what the Congress tried to get through," Glendening said, referring to Republican positions on issues such as gun control and education.

But there were no indications last night that Bradley, whom Gore never mentioned, was making headway among top Maryland Democrats.

Besides the support of Glendening, Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and the two senators, Gore has the backing of the state's four Democratic congressmen, Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, House Speaker Casper R. Taylor and four of the state's five Democratic county executives. The lone holdout, Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger, attended the fund-raiser sporting a large Gore button but said he has not committed to a candidate.

The most prominent Maryland Democrats to line up behind Bradley are two Montgomery County delegates, Cheryl Kagan and Paul Carlson, and former gubernatorial candidate Ray Schoenke. David Carroll, a fund-raiser for the Gore campaign, said last night's event pushed the vice president's take in Maryland to well over $1 million.

Pub Date: 7/29/99

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