State Comptroller William Donald Schaefer provided the laughs while about 90 people donated the money last night - about $50,000 at a fund-raiser in Baltimore for Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan's campaign coffers.
"I'd like to introduce my good friend, County Executive ... what's your name again?" Schaefer said to Duncan, drawing chuckles during the cocktail party at The Standard apartment building at 501 St. Paul St.
Duncan made no announcement on what office he is seeking, but several people attending the party said they would favor him for governor in 2006 over other potential Democratic candidates, including Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley.
"Doug is much more inclusive in his approach to doing things," said Del. Nathaniel T. Oaks, a Baltimore Democrat. "Martin got a lot of popularity quickly, but I don't think all of the black folk who supported him in the first election are supporting him now."
Schaefer, the former governor and Baltimore mayor, was co-host of the event with lawyer and Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos and developer David Hillman, both of whom are leaders of efforts to rebuild the west side of downtown Baltimore.
Angelos and Hillman have disagreed with O'Malley over whether the city has focused enough money or attention on the project. But the hosts - all friends - said last night that they did not hold the fund-raiser as an attack on O'Malley or an endorsement of Duncan over O'Malley for governor.
Angelos said he invited his friends to meet Duncan because "he's a very competent, successful political officeholder, and I have a great deal of respect for his accomplishments in Montgomery County."
Angelos added: "I don't know what O'Malley has to do with this. .... I think Mr. O'Malley might have misunderstood and saw this as a kind of threat to his status. He has a habit of doing that."
Last week, Hillman strongly criticized O'Malley's economic development strategies, complaining that they were not focused enough on downtown.
O'Malley suggested last week that Hillman and the other hosts were holding the event for Duncan as an expression of their irritation with the mayor for spreading some of the city's development money away from downtown, to a biotechnology park project on the east side.
But yesterday at City Hall, O'Malley struck a different note.
"I am not offended in the least," the mayor said. "People all over this great nation of ours can express themselves in any way they like, at fund-raisers or at any other event."
Also last night, advocacy organization Preservation Maryland presented O'Malley with an award for what they described as his crucial leadership in pushing the west-side downtown redevelopment effort.
O'Malley was honored along with Bank of America and West Side Renaissance Inc., a business organization that is led in part by Angelos and Hillman.
"The west side is a great preservation success ... and we also hope that this award, in its own small way, will help to mend the rift between the mayor and Mr. Angelos," said Tyler Gearhart, executive director of Preservation Maryland, which held the event at its offices at 25 W. Saratoga St.
The fund-raiser for Duncan attracted slightly fewer than the 100 to 120 people projected last week by one of the organizers. And it was relatively small in comparison to other fund-raising events in the city, including O'Malley's rally that drew more than 2,500 people to M&T Bank Stadium on May 14 and raised $1.6 million.
Not many elected officials attended the event last night for Duncan - only Schaefer, Oaks and Del. Jill P. Carter, also a Baltimore Democrat. Some in the audience were lawyers who knew or worked for Angelos, and others were business people from the Washington area who knew Duncan or Hillman.
Duncan spent much of the day touring Northwest Baltimore, talking to community leaders and meeting with organizers of the Baltimore Jewish Council and The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.
"Baltimore is not going to be successful on its own," Duncan said. "The entire state has to help it out. Montgomery County can't be successful on its own, either. We all have to work together."
Schaefer said he has known and respected Duncan for years, but joked that he didn't feel comfortable in the presence of Angelos and Hillman.
"I'm poor," Schaefer said. "You have two wealthy men who set up this event. Most of them are multimillionaires. I'm on food stamps."