Politics has `long history' of low funds

Campaign finance reports show that officeholders don't raise a lot of money

January 25, 2004|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Money may make the political world go 'round but not in Howard County, based on annual campaign finance reports filed last week.

While Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. reported raising $2.5 million and Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley took in almost $1.9 million, Howard politicians typically raised less than $30,000 each, sometimes far less.

"I haven't had a fund-raiser for five years. I have a long history of that," said Republican state Sen. Robert H. Kittleman.

Kittleman's report was filled with zeros, except for $5,682 remaining from earlier contributions.

The House delegation chairman, Democratic Del. Frank S. Turner, reported raising $74.52 in the past year and has $7,862 from previous years.

That's not much for a guy who says he is "not excluding" the option of running for county executive in two years, but Turner said the amount of money matters less than what is done with it.

"I didn't raise anything because I thought once in a while to give people a break," Turner said.

He noted that plenty of time remains to raise funds before the 2006 elections.

"It's pretty good," not having to constantly raise money, said Del. Elizabeth Bobo, a Columbia Democrat who has been county executive and a County Council member.

She raised $8,439 last year and has $30,000 left from previous years.

"It gives you more time to focus on the issues instead of focusing on money all the time," Bobo said.

Howard County's voter rolls have grown to about 157,000 from about 22,000 in 1968.

But the compact county doesn't require commercial television ads or other big campaign expenses.

"What would you use it for?" asked Del. Neil F. Quinter, a Democrat who raised $28,395 but had debts from his last campaign.

"The cost of postage and printing, that's where most of my money went to," said Republican state Sen. Sandra B. Schrader, who reported raising $29,235 in the past year.

County Executive James N. Robey, a Democrat, reported raising no money in the past year, despite rumors that Democrats are urging him to run against Kittleman after serving two terms in the county's top job. The county executive is limited to serving two terms.

And voters, especially in Columbia, are alert and can be discriminating.

Former County Councilwoman Mary C. Lorsung, a Democrat, first won her seat in 1994 despite being outspent 10-to-1.

Councilman Ken Ulman, a novice Democrat who now holds that seat, defeated Mary Kay Sigaty by 36 votes in a hard-fought 2002 primary despite outspending her 10-to-1.

"I was amazed. I was really pretty agog" at what Republican Riaz Rana spent a decade ago, Lorsung said.

"In the end, I thought, if that's what people want, if that's as perceptive and interested as the electorate wants to be, that's the way democracy works."

She was not consumed with politics, she said.

Ulman raised nearly $100,000 for his first election effort, but this year's report shows him with $7,647 on hand.

"It's a long time until the next election," he said, adding: "I feel comfortable. We've paid off our debt."

David A. Rakes, another Columbia Democrat, raised $8,800, according to his report.

County Councilman Allan H. Kittleman, Sen. Kittleman's son and one of three council members expected to run for county executive in two years, appears to have the most money.

He reported having $39,198 on hand, about $3,000 more than fellow Republican Christopher J. Merdon of Ellicott City and about double what Democrat Guy Guzzone reported.

Guzzone, who represents the southeastern part of the county, has raised $234 since August and collected $22,000 from an event last year.

"I think I'm on target to raise the money I need," Allan Kittleman said, noting that he'll probably want "$200,000 or so" to run for county executive.

"It's not like we're raising hundreds of thousands of dollars. It's a good base to start from," he said.

Merdon, a possible Kittleman rival in the Republican primary, said his goal is to stay competitive and show that he can raise money as well as the next person.

"I think it's important to show you have support in the community and people believe in you as a candidate and are willing to invest in your career," he said.

Guzzone, who is serving his second year as County Council chairman, said, "My idea is very simple.

"We have been going through an extraordinary amount of [comprehensive rezoning] work on the council. To think about planning and holding an event at that time just didn't make sense to me," he said.

"It seems to me Martin O'Malley decided in the last couple of months [of 1999] to run" for mayor of Baltimore.

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