Racing industry backing Townsend, report shows

Campaign donations for 2002 disclosed

November 24, 1999|By Thomas W. Waldron and Michael Dresser | Thomas W. Waldron and Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

Looking to run for governor in three years, Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend has received early financial support from Maryland's racing industry -- a group that worked hard to unseat her and Gov. Parris N. Glendening in last year's election.

At least nine people, companies or political groups affiliated with the racing industry have given Townsend a total of at least $13,000, according to her campaign finance report released yesterday.

Upset with Glendening's stand against the legalization of slot machines in Maryland, the racing industry raised significant money for Republican gubernatorial candidate Ellen R. Sauerbrey last year.

With the Glendening-Townsend team having won a second four-year term, industry leaders have concluded their best strategy is to cultivate a long-term relationship with Townsend, the perceived early front-runner in the 2002 campaign.

She has welcomed their support, even while calling Glendening's position against slots a good one and saying she sees no reason to re-examine the issue.

Among those who have contributed to Townsend this year are horse track owner Joseph A. De Francis, who gave $1,000; Leucadia National Corp., which owns a minority stake in Laurel and Pimlico race courses, which gave $4,000; the Maryland Thoroughbred Horse Breeders Association, which contributed $2,000; and racetrack official Martin Jacobs, who sent $2,000.

The racing money is part of an unprecedented early push for campaign funds by Townsend and others. She and two other potential Democratic candidates for governor have raised more than $2 million for 2002 -- a figure that dwarfs comparable sums at this stage of earlier campaigns.

Townsend reported raising more than $900,000 so far this year. Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger raised more than $600,000, while Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan brought in slightly more than $500,000, according to reports filed by the candidates with the state elections board this week.

Ruppersberger's shows that he has drawn on his contacts in the cable television, finance, real estate and development industries. Supporters included Nathan Landow, the well-known Democratic Party fund raiser, who gave $2,000, and state school superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick, who donated $250.

Other names on the Ruppersberger donor list include Philadelphia-based Comcast Financial Agency, an affiliate of the county's cable television franchise holder, which gave $2,000.

Ruppersberger received at least $70,000 in recent months from executives of MBNA Corp., their wives and others affiliated with the Wilmington, Delaware-based credit card giant, which has a major operation in Baltimore County.

Among those gifts was a $4,000 check from Norma Lerner, wife of Al Lerner, chairman of MBNA and the principal owner of the Cleveland Browns.

By contrast, Townsend received several large contributions from officials of the Baltimore Ravens. The team gave $2,000, as did Coach Brian Billick and vice president of player personnel Ozzie Newsome. Owner Art Modell, who was a major giver to Republican candidates in past years but supported Glendening last year, gave $1,000.

Also giving to Townsend was state Comptroller William Donald Schaefer, who contributed $1,000.

Townsend, a member of one of the nation's best-known political families, has also shown the ability to attract money from outside Maryland. Of the 71 contributions of more than $4,000 she received this year, 50 came from out of state.

Duncan's notable givers include hotelier J. Willard Marriott and Washington sports mogul Abe Pollin, both of whom contributed $1,000.

At this early stage, some contributors are hedging their bets and giving to more than one candidate.

Retirement companies controlled by John C. Erickson gave $1,000 to Ruppersberger, $2,000 to Townsend and $1,000 to Duncan.

Companies affiliated with William Rickman, who owns the Delaware Park racetrack and wants to build another in Cumberland, gave Townsend $4,000 and Duncan at least $12,000.

Fund raising on the Republican side was negligible by comparison.

U.S. Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich, the Baltimore County Republican who is weighing a gubernatorial bid, collected only $109,000 for his state political committee. Ehrlich has a much larger federal account earmarked for a congressional re-election campaign, but he is exploring whether he could use that money for a state race in 2002.

Among those giving the $4,000 maximum to Ehrlich are Imtek Funding Corp. of Baltimore, Sunbelt Beverage Corp. of New York, Samuel James Ltd. of Towson and Riparius Corp. of Baltimore County.

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