Smith campaign dwarfs rivals in election funds

County executive has raised over $1 million

August 16, 2006|By JOSH MITCHELL | JOSH MITCHELL,SUN REPORTER

Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. has $1.3 million to spend on his re-election bid, his campaign said yesterday, while the top Republican in the race to unseat him has raised about $2,000.

Smith, a 64-year-old Democrat from Reisterstown, has raised $107,000 this year and spent more than $300,000, his campaign said yesterday, the deadline for candidates to file campaign finance reports with the state elections board.

"The county executive's fundraising is evidence that he has a broad base of support of people from all over Baltimore County," said Sterling Clifford, Smith's campaign spokesman.

Other candidates in the race have raised a fraction of what Smith has taken in.

John F. Weber III, a Dundalk Democrat and former county parks director, said as early as March 2004 that he intended to run and has been collecting contributions since last year. He has raised about $50,000, he said, with $10,000 to $12,000 still in the bank.

Two other Democrats -- county human resources worker Ronald E. Harvey and former Orphans' Court Judge Alexander "Bob" Page Jr. -- entered the race just before the filing deadline last month. Attempts to reach them yesterday were unsuccessful.

Clarence W. Bell Jr., a Pikesville Republican and a state police commander, also was a last-minute entry into the race and has received the endorsement of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. Bell said yesterday he has raised $2,000.

The other Republican in the race, Norman J. Cioka, a county maintenance worker, filed to run last August, but as late as last month had not begun to campaign. He declined yesterday to say how much he has raised.

"It's David versus Goliath," Cioka said.

Smith, a former county councilman and longtime Circuit Court judge, has raised $2.1 million since taking office in 2002, Clifford said. Smith has raised most of his money at a handful of major events, such as an annual bash in October at Martin's West that includes a $1,000-a-head VIP reception.

Weber said he always intended to run a grass-roots campaign, focusing on sign-waving and visiting residents at their homes rather than holding big fundraisers. He was planning to talk to residents over coffee in White Marsh.

"I still have this belief that people win campaigns and money doesn't," Weber said.

Bell was set to hold his first fundraiser last night -- a $40-a-head event at a swim club. He expected 100 guests. He is planning another event for next month.

Bell said the latest campaign report he filed with the state election officials -- which shows he has about $1,000 in the bank -- is not indicative of the strength of his campaign.

"Getting into the race late, this was expected," Bell said. "The campaign is moving forward and we've got good momentum going, so we're OK."

josh.mitchell@baltsun.com

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