Fund raising keeps mayor's options open

The Political Game

Money: O'Malley's latest event likely to produce extensive donations for the election of his choice.

April 24, 2001|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

WITH THE General Assembly session over, the fund-raising season in Maryland has begun.

Mayor Martin O'Malley will hold a fund-raiser at the Ravens stadium tomorrow night, with ticket prices ranging from $250 to $1,000. The money will finance his race for - whatever.

Colleen Martin-Lauer, O'Malley's fund-raising consultant, said she's expecting a "pretty good crowd" and a take well into six figures. Martin-Lauer said she didn't know whether the mayor, who has been mentioned as a possible gubernatorial candidate next year, was raising the money for re-election or some other campaign.

"It's called Friends of Martin O'Malley, so he can use it for whatever he decides to run for," she said.

State legislators and statewide officeholders are barred from raising funds during the session, but the ban does not apply to O'Malley, who held a $35-a-ticket event in March. Aside from that, the mayor has not held any fund-raisers since his election in 1999, Martin-Lauer said.

Blount raising eyebrows with fund-raiser June 12

One of the more intriguing entries on the political calendar is a fund-raiser scheduled June 12 by Senate Majority Leader Clarence W. Blount, one Baltimore's most influential legislators.

The 41st District Democrat, who recently turned 80, had widely been expected to bow out in 2002 after a Senate career that dates to 1971. But his fund-raiser, with tickets priced from $100 to $400, sends a signal that his exit cannot be taken for granted. The senator, who is known for playing his cards close to his chest, did not return a call seeking a comment.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said that if Blount seeks re-election, he will win overwhelmingly. "He's very healthy, and he continues to perform his job in an admirable fashion," Miller said. "I'd like him to stay in the Senate as long as his health and wife permit."

In a quirk of scheduling, Blount's event competes directly with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Thomas L. Bromwell's Jamaican Me Crazy Party - an annual event that typically draws a who's who of Maryland politics and lobbying.

That means a lot of political players will be shuttling between Martin's West, scene of Blount's event, and Bromwell's wingding at the Bay Cafe. Political junkies will recall that Blount played a crucial role in thwarting Bromwell's failed coup attempt against Miller in December.

Miller said he'll manage to make it to both events.

Officials read between lines for redistricting strategies

Montgomery County Democrats, who for many years have tried in vain to persuade one of their promising office-holders to challenge veteran Republican Rep. Constance A. Morella, face a potential primary contest between two of their rising stars for the 8th District congressional seat.

Del. Mark K. Shriver, has announced his candidacy, and Sen. Christopher J. Van Hollen has set up an exploratory committee to consider a run. Other political luminaries could join the growing field of potential challengers, who have been encouraged by Morella's narrow victory last fall.

Some Democrats, distressed that Shriver or Van Hollen could be left on the sidelines after a primary loss, are toying with a possible solution: Draw the state's congressional map to create districts where both could win.

Former Democratic Del. Gene W. Counihan, who said he has been "fooling around with the map," noted that Montgomery County has a population of almost 880,000, while the optimum population for a congressional district as of 2002 will be 660,000. He figures that if Montgomery's heavily Democratic population were split in half, at least 420,000 county residents would be in each district. The likely result: two representatives from Montgomery.

The former delegate said he didn't start with the notion of creating a western Montgomery seat for Shriver and an eastern seat for Van Hollen, but he allowed that he finds the prospect appealing.

Senate President Miller, who will play a powerful role in redistricting, said the idea of drawing two Montgomery-dominated seats is "possible but not likely."

He noted that the risk for Democrats is that one of the districts could include enough Western Maryland Republicans to keep it in the hands of Morella. Under a more likely scenario, 4th District Rep. Albert R. Wynn would give up just enough Democratic precincts in Takoma Park and Silver Spring to make the 8th District impossible for a Republican to hold.

"I think we've got to opt for the sure thing rather than the chancy possibility," Miller said.

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