No single candidate has emerged as a fundraising front-runner to weed out the large field running for Maryland's only open congressional seat, suggesting that the crowded race will remain competitive, campaign finance reports filed yesterday show.
Seven Democratic candidates are running to replace Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin in the sprawling 3rd Congressional District -- which includes portions of the city and Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Howard counties -- and at least four of them have equally hefty campaign funds, according to the reports.
Attorney John P. Sarbanes, son of five-term Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, outdid his competition slightly by raising $149,756 in the final months of 2005, but former Baltimore Health Commissioner Dr. Peter L. Beilenson and state Sen. Paula C. Hollinger followed close behind.
"I'm not surprised we have a lot of people in the race," said Sarbanes, who announced his candidacy in October and has $226,284 on hand. "It just makes it that much more important to get your own message out ... about what you stand for."
Hollinger, a 26-year veteran of Maryland politics who announced her candidacy in July, raised $111,503 and has $128,951, according to her campaign. Beilenson, who took the early fundraising lead, pulled in $102,944 and has about $154,000 on hand.
Kevin O'Keeffe, a former top-level aide to the governments in Baltimore City and Anne Arundel County, also posted strong numbers, with $105,750 raised and $97,761 in the bank.
With Cardin trying to replace Sarbanes in the Senate, the oddly shaped and Democrat-leaning district is Maryland's only seat up for grabs, and the race has attracted a diverse set of candidates.
Most were required to file a campaign finance disclosure report yesterday with the Federal Election Commission showing how much they raised between October and December last year and how much cash they have on hand.
"My campaign has now proven that we have a strong, renewable, expanding finance base that will allow us to fully fund a sophisticated primary campaign," Hollinger said in a statement. "I'm in this for the long haul."
A Hollinger campaign consultant said the most recent report does not include donations from EMILY's List, the influential national abortion rights organization that endorsed her last month and that is expected to spend thousands on her campaign.
Until the number of candidates is reduced, many voters will likely have a difficult time distinguishing campaigns, experts said.
"People get very confused the more candidates there are," said Donald F. Norris, a professor of public policy at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
"Voters wait until much closer to election time to make their decision, unless at some point one or two of the candidates emerge," he said. "We're only in January."
The campaign reports, which also were filed by Senate candidates, are separate from those filed this month by gubernatorial hopefuls. Those candidates file reports with state government.
Other candidates running in the 3rd District include former WMAR-TV reporter Andy Barth, who said he raised $41,700 and will report having $32,221 on hand. Businessman Oz Bengur, who lost a 2002 campaign for the 2nd District congressional seat against former Baltimore County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, said he has raised $45,670 and has $80,678 on hand.
Recent additions to the race -- including Mishonda M. Baldwin, a Democrat, and Gary Applebaum, the only Republican candidate seeking the seat -- said they did not have to file finance reports yesterday because of their late entries into the race.
Maryland's 3rd Congressional District has a wide field of candidates. Here's a look at recent fundraising totals that the campaigns said they reported yesterday.
The first column shows the amount of money raised between Oct. 1 and the end of last year. The second number reflects the amount of money each candidate had on hand. Some candidates who recently entered the race said they are not yet required to file reports.
John P. Sarbanes
Paula C. Hollinger
Dr. Peter L. Beilenson
[Source: Individual campaigns and the Federal Election Commission.]