O'Malley travels to Kent to raise cash

No campaign talk at bipartisan event at Chestertown club

March 31, 2002|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

CHESTERTOWN - Mayor Martin O'Malley traveled to the Eastern Shore last night for a fund-raiser that generated about $25,000 from a crowd led by local political leaders who want him to run for governor.

O'Malley was introduced to the bipartisan group of about 100 by former Mayor Elmer Horsey, a close political ally of state Comptroller William Donald Schaefer. Political leaders from Kent and Queen Anne's counties and local businessmen paid $125 per person - or $200 per couple - to hear O'Malley speak, and to nibble on fruit, finger sandwiches and meatballs.

"At this point I'm a registered Republican," said David Wright, a sponsor of the fund-raiser and a former Kent County Republican Central Committee member. "I will be switching my affiliation to vote for Mayor O'Malley."

O'Malley made few comments about the governor's race. Instead, he spoke about his administration's successes in Baltimore.

"Someone said to me, `Why is the mayor of Baltimore having a fund-raiser in Chestertown?'" O'Malley said during his speech at the Chester River Yacht & Country Club. "I said, `Because we can.'"

Chestertown sits in Kent County, the state's smallest county with a population of 19,000. It's about a 90-minute drive from Baltimore. Democrats there outnumber Republicans almost 2 to 1.

O'Malley, a first-term mayor, has been toying for months with the idea of running for the Democratic nomination against Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, considered the front-runner in the governor's race, although she also has not formally announced her candidacy. O'Malley has said he will decide whether to launch a gubernatorial bid by the end of May.

Second event in a week

Saturday's event was the second fund-raiser O'Malley has held in a week - although this one was pricier, and farther from home. About 3,000 people packed Hammerjacks in Baltimore on March 24 for a $35-per-person event at which the mayor and his Celtic rock band, O'Malley's March, performed.

O'Malley is expected to hold at least a half-dozen other fund-raisers over the next two months, including an event April 17 at the Ravens stadium in Baltimore that could raise close to $1 million.

Advantage during Assembly

By holding the fund-raisers during the General Assembly session, which ends April 8, O'Malley is taking advantage of an opportunity that Townsend does not have. Maryland law prohibits state officials from fund raising during the legislative session.

Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Baltimore County Republican and the highest-profile candidate to officially enter the governor's race so far, also has conducted fund raising during the legislative session, generating $750,000 during an event starting his campaign last week.

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