Owens outdraws rivals in funding

County executive meets financial goal

GOP candidates lag behind

August 14, 2002|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

Flush with cash contributions from big business entities, Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens has collected three times as much money since November as her closest potential rival, according to campaign finance reports released yesterday.

Owens, a Democrat from Millersville who has served as the county's top elected official for nearly four years, has raised $186,550 since Nov. 8, the last filing date for finance reports. With $503,000 raised since she was sworn into office, Owens has met her fund-raising goal.

As of yesterday, her campaign had about $236,100 on hand to pay for televised political ads, T-shirts and bumper stickers. Her campaign spokesman, Bob DiPietro, said yesterday that she will continue to raise money even though she has met her goal.

"We're right where we want to be," said Michael F. Gilligan, a Glen Burnie attorney and close friend of Owens who runs her campaign along with Lothian resident William F. Chaney. "As the campaign goes on we will get stronger and stronger."

Owens, who is running unopposed in the Sept. 10 primary election, will face Phillip D. Bissett, a Mayo resident and former state legislator, or Tom Angelis, a Davidsonville resident and schoolteacher, in the Nov. 5 general election.

Bissett reported raising about $56,000 for the same period and having about $5,300 on hand. Bissett has raised about $60,000 total.

Angelis, whose campaign finance information had yet to be posted on the state Board of Elections Web site late yesterday, said he had raised enough money to cover expenses, but that his account balance was zero or close to it.

Still, both men say they will eventually match Owens in fund raising.

"I have been in the game too long to let [money] intimidate me," Bissett said. "Our fund-raising strategy has worked for us so far, but we have a whole new strategy for the general election. We expect a lot more activity."

Angelis acknowledged that his campaign would need to take in more money.

"We need an influx of cash," he said. "We are solvent, but we need more money."

So far, Angelis and his son have lent the campaign about $1,500. And, he said, he would continue to use money from his personal savings to wage his bid.

"I'm willing to do whatever it takes to win the race," he said yesterday.

Gilligan said that the Owens campaign had to make similar sacrifices in 1998.

At the time, former County Council member Diane R. Evans, a Severna Park Republican who switched political parties to run as a Democrat against then-County Executive John G. Gary, had tied up support from many local businesses.

Owens and her husband, Baltimore attorney David M. Sheehan, lent her campaign at least $44,000.

In the end, Owens raised about $300,000 compared to Gary's $648,000, which broke local records for county executive races.

To reach her fund-raising goal, Owens has relied on business entities that can afford to write $1,000 checks - again and again and again.

Owens has received $2,000 from the owners of Sturbridge Homes of Annapolis.

She has also received a total of $8,000 from Powhatan Development Co. of Baltimore.

Northrop Grumman, which has a large facility in Linthicum, contributed $1,000, as did Carl Freedman, a New Jersey developer who wants to rebuild Parole Plaza outside Annapolis.

Bissett chided Owens yesterday for taking money from developers, something she criticized Gary for in 1998.

"It appears that she is raising campaign contributions as fast as the rate of development is taking place in the county," said Bissett.

Bissett, who also collected money from businesses that help build malls and housing developments, said his focus is more on the "little guy."

"There is a difference between the major developers and the little guys," he said. "The little guys are small-business people who work and live in the county. They are our economic engine and that is where I will focus."

Bissett, who has a license to carry a concealed weapon because of threats he has received, also received $450 from the National Rifle Association's Political Victory Fund.

"I have always been supported by those who believe in individual freedoms," he said. "I am proud of that support."

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