Johnson tops funds race

Finance reports show sheriff's campaign for county executive outpacing competition

Maryland Votes 2006


Anne Arundel County Sheriff George F. Johnson IV has raised more than $400,000 in campaign contributions this year, an amount that dwarfs the combined total from the other six candidates for county executive.

In the hotly contested race to succeed Janet S. Owens, Johnson, a Democrat, has spent more than $219,000 since January and has $514,000 on hand, according to state campaign finance reports submitted yesterday. The deadline was midnight.

The other Democrat in the field, Dennis Callahan, ranked second in private contributions among all candidates, netting $82,000.

"I just feel very, very good about the campaign," Johnson said yesterday. "I am pleased by the progress of it. It's a clear sign of the hard work everyone is putting into it."

Fundraising results among the five Republicans appeared less clear-cut with less than five weeks until the Sept. 12 primaries.

Del. David G. Boschert boosted his coffers the most of any in the quintet by lending himself $240,000. He has not spent any of that money. He raised an additional $62,000 over the period of Jan. 12 through Aug. 8 and has $241,000 left.

Boschert, who announced his candidacy in November, had set a goal of raising $500,000 for the primary. He acknowledged yesterday his late entrance into the race and the plethora of other competitive local and statewide races limited what he can get from donors.

"People are tapped. They are maxed out, and I knew that," he said.

Phillip D. Bissett, the party's 2002 nominee for executive, raised the most among Republicans in private funds with $70,000, according to a campaign spokeswoman. Bissett did not release other details about his campaign finance report and did not return calls seeking comment. He had nearly $70,000 on hand as of January's filing.

Diane Rey, a spokeswoman for Bissett, noted the campaign has sent out six major mailings, and he was the first county executive candidate to run cable TV ads this year. She said Bissett's final campaign push is fully funded.

"We consider campaign funds like taxes - you only raise enough to provide good service, and no more," Rey wrote in an e-mail.

Del. John R. Leopold picked up $8,330, but he stopped fundraising after the start of the General Assembly in January. He still leads all Republicans with more than $412,000 on hand. Leopold has lent himself more than $200,000 for the executive campaign, and has not dipped into his personal funds.

For all of 2005, Leopold spent less than $1,200 on his campaign, concentrating on going door to door. In the past seven months, he has spent nearly $47,000.

Leopold said he would spend up to $100,000 more for the primary, meaning his personal funds would remain intact.

"There's a plan, but obviously I want to retain some of that for the general election," Leopold said.

Gregory V. Nourse, an assistant superintendent for the county's public schools, raised $42,000. He said he has about $8,000 left. He said he has one fundraiser left to push him through the primary season.

"I am right in the ballpark. I feel really good," Nourse said, adding that none of his money came from "big corporations. It's all grass-roots."

Tom Angelis, a schoolteacher from Davidsonville, took in $22,275 and has nearly $16,000 left. He acknowledged he won't meet his goal of raising $100,000 for the primary.

"That's not going to happen until after the primary. But I have enough money to do everything I'm going to do," he said, referring to 600 cable TV ad spots, 100 radio spots, and a mix of e-mailing and direct mail ads.

Johnson doubled the fundraising goal his staff set in January, said campaign manager Mike Rendina.

Johnson raised more than $200,000 at three events this year, including $101,000 at a reception last month in Annapolis. He has poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into paying campaign staff, polling and advertising. Johnson has been airing cable TV ads for the past four weeks.

Both Republican and Democratic observers note that Callahan, a former mayor of Annapolis and former county director of recreation and parks, is at a clear disadvantage. Johnson has landed numerous Democratic endorsements and several union endorsements.

"There's a clear Democratic front-runner," Angelis said. "Everyone knows that."

Yesterday, Callahan sought to lower expectations about his fundraising efforts, saying he needs $100,000 for the primary to beat Johnson.

When he announced his candidacy in February, Callahan said he hoped to garner $200,000 for the September primary. Callahan pushed up his announcement from the spring, saying at the time he did so at the behest of supporters after Johnson announced he had more than $318,000 on hand in January.

Callahan said with his relatively high name recognition he doesn't need to raise as much.

"For better or worse, people know who I am," Callahan said. "If were a complete unknown I would need 150 to 200 thousand."

Callahan saw a silver lining to Johnson's spending.

"That means he's not getting the numbers he thought he'd get, and I'm not talking about dollar and cents, I'm talking about polling numbers," Callahan said.

Angelis questioned the effect the money will have in the Republican race, given the fragmented field and the finite number of primary voters the GOP is targeting. About 28,000 Republicans voted in the 2002 primary.

"There a maximum of 35,000 [Republican] voters," Angelis said. "You can pour money in all day long, but unless you get your people to the polls, it's not going to matter."

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