Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele has raised more than $400,000 for a possible Senate bid, and former Baltimore health commissioner Peter L. Beilenson has the early fundraising lead in the contest for Maryland's open 3rd District Congressional seat, according to new campaign finance reports.
Though Steele has not announced his intentions for next year's election, he has been courted by national Republican luminaries and has about $350,000 in cash on hand. That's more than all the declared candidates to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes' seat, except for U.S. Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, a Democrat who raised $837,000 in the past three months and has $1.5 million in the bank.
"Should the lieutenant governor decide to run, he will be a very formidable candidate and someone who will also have the resources necessary to mount a successful campaign," said Dan Ronayne, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which is helping Steele's exploratory committee.
Since announcing his candidacy last summer for the 3rd District seat Cardin is vacating, Beilenson has raised $234,900, nearly $88,000 more than state Sen. Paula C. Hollinger, his nearest competitor in the crowded Democratic primary for the seat.
"We're really pleased," Beilenson said. "We've had a real outpouring of support from all over the district, both in terms of going door-to-door and actually meeting people and going to parades and festivals, as well as through contributions."
Two other Democrats filed campaign finance forms: businessman and former Congressional candidate Oz Bengur and attorney John P. Sarbanes, the son of the senator. Both entered the race in the past few weeks and have raised just over $100,000 apiece.
Reports from Anne Arundel County Councilman Bill D. Burlison, a former southeast Missouri congressman, and Del. Neil F. Quinter of Howard County were not available from the Federal Election Commission yesterday.
Hollinger said she has been fundraising in earnest only since Labor Day and is confident that she is well positioned.
"I have won races with adequate money, and I have won seats where I have been very highly overspent by my opponents," Hollinger said. "I know my abilities out there on the campaign trail, and I know I will raise enough money to win the race."
Money could play a major part in the Democratic primary to replace Cardin as candidates seek to distinguish themselves.
More Democrats may join the six who are running in a contorted district that incorporates parts of Anne Arundel, Howard and Baltimore counties and Baltimore City. No Republicans have declared for the seat, although it is among the more conservative Congressional districts held by Democrats in the state.
The last open primary for a Baltimore-area congressional seat, the 2002 matchup between Bengur and U.S. Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, cost nearly $800,000. That same year, Rep. Chris Van Hollen and then-Del. Mark K. Shriver spent a combined $2.5 million in the primary for the 8th District seat, though that contest took place in the more expensive Washington media market.
About a third of Beilenson's support comes from fellow doctors, most in Maryland. Hollinger, a former nurse, also got significant support from those in the health care field. A large part of Sarbanes' donations come from lawyers, and Bengur has relied more heavily than the others on out-of-state money.
At least three more Democrats - state Del. Jon S. Cardin, Ben Cardin's nephew; Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens; and Kevin O'Keeffe, a former lobbyist for Owens and, before that, for Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke - have expressed strong interest in the seat but have not declared their candidacy.
The Democrats running for U.S. Senate announced their fundraising totals last week. According to the finance reports, former Democratic Congressman and NAACP head Kweisi Mfume raised about $80,000 in the past three months, less than the roughly $100,000 figure the campaign told reporters last week. American University professor Allan J. Lichtman, who entered the race last month, raised $12,554 but added $250,000 in a personal loan after mortgaging his house. Lise Van Susteren, a forensic psychiatrist and sister of FOX television personality Greta Van Susteren, who also entered the race last month, raised more than $250,000.
Staff reporter Gwynneth K. Shaw contributed to this article.