O'Malley tops donations

Mayor raises $600,000 more than Ehrlich in '06

Maryland Votes 2006

August 15, 2006|By JOHN FRITZE AND ANDREW A. GREEN | JOHN FRITZE AND ANDREW A. GREEN,SUN REPORTERS

Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley has collected $600,000 more in campaign donations than Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. this year, cutting into the Republican incumbent's long-standing financial advantage as the state's costliest gubernatorial race enters its final three months.

O'Malley, a Democrat, raised $3 million since Jan. 12, 2006, campaign aides said yesterday. Ehrlich took in $2.4 million, the governor's campaign said, while noting that he was prohibited by law from fundraising during this year's 90-day General Assembly session.

In campaign finance statements expected to be filed with the Maryland State Board of Elections today, Ehrlich will report having a substantial advantage in available cash - $8.5 million in the bank, compared with $4.4 million for O'Malley.

Both campaigns said their fundraising totals reflect support from thousands of middle-class voters. But practically, the candidates need millions to pay for costly television advertisements - as well as a direct mailings and get-out-the-vote efforts - to persuade critical undecided voters in the close contest.

"Both of these guys have a lot of money, and they're going be able to pretty much have as many TV ads as they want," said Zach Messitte, a political science professor at St. Mary's College who teaches a seminar on Maryland politics. "It's like mutually assured destruction. They both have enough nuclear weapons to go after each other."

The totals are also the first available since January, and come after Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan dropped out of the race in June, leaving O'Malley as the presumptive Democratic nominee.

For months, top Democrats feared that a bruising primary between O'Malley and Duncan would leave the winner damaged and cash-depleted. But those fears proved to be unfounded, and now the likely nominees of both parties appear to have copious amounts of cash to wage a vigorous race.

In a statement released yesterday, the O'Malley campaign characterized their recent fundraising ability as a victory against a skilled opponent who has statewide and national resources at his disposal. The mayor's campaign noted that O'Malley has raised more than Democratic nominees in 2002 and 1996 and suggested that Ehrlich's figures are a sign of weakness in his campaign.

"The tide has shifted away from Bob Ehrlich and George Bush, and together we will take back the State House," O'Malley's campaign manager, Josh White, said in a statement.

But Ehrlich said he was collecting money from Democrats and Republicans who believe his leadership has the state on the right track.

"These findings are about more than just dollars, but a true demonstration of bipartisan support that realizes my administration has changed Maryland for the better," Ehrlich said in a statement released by his campaign. The release highlighted how many of his donations come from Marylanders (97 percent) and first-time donors to the governor (48 percent).

Since 2003, Ehrlich has raised more than $13 million for his re-election, breaking his own record from the 2002 campaign by nearly $3 million. During that period O'Malley raised about $10 million, though some money was raised in his 2003 re-election campaign for mayor.

But while the campaigns were raising large sums, they also were spending heavily. Ehrlich, thanks in large part to a television advertising blitz, spent about $2.3 million, nearly as much as he took in. O'Malley outspent Ehrlich by racking up about $2.7 million in bills.

Carol L. Hirschburg, a Republican consultant from Owings Mills who is close to the governor, said O'Malley might find it difficult to keep up with Ehrlich for the remainder of the campaign because donors could be tapped out by other competitive races.

"Money is going to get progressively harder to raise, and the person who is ahead of the game at this point has a big advantage," Hirschburg said.

Candidates in other statewide races disclosed at least a portion of their fundraising report in advance of today's deadline.

Del. Peter Franchot, who issued a news release last week boasting of having more than $900,000 in cash on hand for his race for the Democratic nomination for comptroller, filed a report yesterday showing that $750,000 of that money came in the form of a loan from personal funds.

Bob DiPietro, a spokesman for Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens, said that while Owens' report was not complete yesterday, she would be reporting having raised about $140,000 since entering the race - with three more fundraisers scheduled. He said Owens, a Democrat running for comptroller, has about $270,000 in cash on hand and has not lent money to her own campaign.

In the Democratic primary for attorney general, Montgomery County State's Attorney Douglas F. Gansler appeared to be leading the pack with more than $1.4 million on hand, compared with $330,000 for Montgomery County Councilman Thomas E. Perez and $65,768 for former Baltimore State's Attorney Stuart O. Simms, who entered the race in June.

Republican candidate Scott L. Rolle, the Frederick County state's attorney, could not be reached.

john.fritze@baltsun.com andy.green@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Michael Dresser contributed to this article.

Campaign funds

EHRLICH ................................................ O'MALLEY

$2.4 mil. ..... Raised since Jan. 12 ............... $3 mil.

$8.5 mil. ..... Current cash on hand ........... $4.4 mil.

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