Campaign funding reports are telling


August 20, 2006|By LARRY CARSON

Democrat Harry M. Dunbar was not eager last week to talk about how much money he has raised for his campaign for county executive, and the state finance report he filed indicates why.

Dunbar, who is trying to beat county Councilman Ken Ulman in the Democratic primary, raised $1,497 between Jan. 12 and Aug. 8, and had $328.37 on hand, according to the report filed last week.

By comparison, Ulman reported raising $364,427 during the same period, and had $413,495 on hand.

What that means is open to interpretation, and Dunbar was quick to offer his opinion once the report became public.

"I don't think money is important," he said. "I'm not chasing dollars. I'm chasing votes."

Dunbar, 61, bills himself the slow-growth candidate and has pledged not to take contributions from developers, who have given generously to Ulman and the Republican candidate, council Chairman Christopher J. Merdon. Merdon reported raising $186,181 during the period and had $304,402 on hand.

Independent candidate C. Stephen Wallis reported raising $2,655, plus $12,000 he lent his campaign, and had $3,750 left to spend.

Despite all that, Dunbar was undeterred.

"I'm attempting to win this election on the issues. This is one of the most intelligent communities in the country," he said. Dunbar added that he is working with community groups who are spending their money on lawyers to fight development.

There are other interpretations.

"He just hasn't connected with people because his campaign is so negative," said county Democratic Party Chairman Tony McGuffin, who noted that while Dunbar is running as a Democrat, he has worked in several Republican campaigns over the years.

Dunbar talks constantly about being against development, McGuffin said, but "we haven't heard a plan. I don't think he's taken seriously."

Ulman said "no comment," on what other candidates are doing.

Angela Beltram, leader of a group fighting development contained in the multiple rezonings in the County Council's omnibus rezoning bill known as "Comp Lite," said it is not unusual that a novice like Dunbar is having trouble raising money.

"You have to figure that the incumbents have built up contacts over the years," she said. "There's always an advantage to being an incumbent."

But Herbert Smith, a political science professor at McDaniel College in Westminster, said success in raising money can indicate the level of support for a candidate. He noted the late sportswriter Ring Lardner's adaptation of a Biblical quotation:

"The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that's the way to bet."

District 13

The contest in General Assembly District 13, where five Democrats are battling for their party's nomination to three seats, appears to be the county's biggest financial draw other than county executive.

Councilman Guy Guzzone, who once considered running for county executive, reported having $148,893 on hand after raising another $28,888 since January.

Guzzone is running on a ticket with incumbent delegates Shane Pendergrass, who reported having $76,112 on hand, and Frank S. Turner, who reported $53,435 on hand. Novice Nina Basu raised $2,021, including a loan for all but $550 of that, and had $257 left.

"It's all about getting your message out," Guzzone said, adding that he cannot physically knock on more than 6,000 or 8,000 of the 26,000 Democratic households in the district. "The money helps carry your message when you physically can't get to the door," he said.

County Executive James N. Robey leads their ticket as a candidate for state Senate. He raised $133,173 and hopes to pick up another $100,000 or so.

Delegate Neil F. Quinter the incumbent delegate who started out to run for Congress but changed his mind after Guzzone declared for delegate, reported a $62,442 cash balance, but he has another resource.

Quinter had raised $58,887 for his congressional campaign and had refunded $26,650 of that by early July, according to federal campaign reports.

Quinter said he is asking federal contributors who are receiving refunds to donate money to his state campaign.

"I feel good. I think I have the resources I need to get my message out," Quinter said.

In contrast to the Democrats, Republican Mary Beth Tung, who is running for delegate in the same District 13, has $9,650 on hand.

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