Benefit boosts Robey's coffers

Birthday fund-raiser may have doubled his re-election fund

Formally announces run

January 18, 2002|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Howard County Executive James N. Robey formally announced his re-election candidacy last night before an admiring crowd of county business leaders who may have doubled his campaign treasury in one night.

Confirmation of what Robey called "the worst kept secret for a long time," came almost offhandedly after a long series of tributes from other area county executives, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley and U.S. Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin.

"I love this job. I wouldn't miss the chance [to serve] for the world," Robey said.

The announcement came at a business-sponsored $100-a-ticket fund-raiser held at One Gateway Exchange, a new multistory office building next to the county's Gateway building - but empty of tenants because of the recession.

The event, held by building developers' Corporate Office Properties and Chief Executive Officer Randall M. Griffin, was billed as a party celebrating Robey's 61st birthday today.

"It's just a great party for a guy who's doing a great job," Griffin said before the event, later telling the crowd that he and other business leaders felt Robey had too little campaign cash, and they decided to get him more of it.

Last night, Griffin credited Robey with "steady leadership" at the county's helm - and the kind of impartiality and integrity expected of career police officers, which Robey was.

Republican County Councilman Christopher J. Merdon also attended, "showing good will to a sitting county executive," he said, while self-described "Republican stalwart" J.P. Bolduc, an investment banker and former chief executive officer of Columbia-based W.R. Grace & Co., said Robey is "a Democrat who is pro-business" and an executive who is not a political partisan.

More than 500 people attended the fund-raiser, according to Griffin and Victoria Goodman, a close Robey ally who is also the county's public information director. That should boost the executive's campaign fund close to the $100,000 mark.

Robey, who reported having $26,000 in cash in his November campaign finance report, said this week that he has received "a lot" of donations since then and had about $50,000 before last night's event. He has said he would need slightly more than the $120,600 he raised and spent in 1998 to run this year's campaign.

Although Robey appears popular, he likely will have a Republican opponent, at least.

Steven H. Adler, Savage Mill's managing partner and the owner of a chain of big-and-tall clothing shops, said he is "way past 50-50" in deciding to run for the Republican nomination.

"It's far more likely that I will than I won't," he said several days before last night's fund-raiser.

Until that decision is made, other Republicans are keeping a sharp eye on Robey's campaign.

Newly appointed state Sen. Sandra B. Schrader, for instance, objected yesterday to what she termed Goodman's "inappropriate" dual role as a county employee and a Robey campaign partisan.

Goodman responded that her campaign work is being done on her own time and without county expense or materials.

Republicans were also steamed about an unexpected boost Robey's campaign got Wednesday at his annual State of the County speech to a lunchtime Chamber of Commerce crowd at a Columbia hotel.

Chamber board Chairman Michael T. Galeone, a Columbia Bank vice president, warmly endorsed Robey's efforts as county executive, adding, "We hope for more." He then invited the crowd to "a birthday bash" for the 61-year old - in reality last night's political fund-raiser. Tickets were on sale as the luncheon ended.

Republican County Councilman Allan H. Kittleman later hotly objected.

"I think it gave the impression that the Howard County Chamber of Commerce was supporting the county executive's re-election. That really bothers me," said Kittleman.

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