Dixon's campaign leads in funding

Incumbency, $278,000 advantages in mayor's race

November 14, 2006|By John Fritze | John Fritze,Sun Reporter

City Council President Sheila Dixon has more money on hand for a 2007 mayoral campaign than nearly a dozen other potential candidates combined - meaning that Dixon may have an edge in fundraising on top of the advantage she is guaranteed by incumbency.

Though the primary is still 9 1/2 months away - and fundraising for the mayor's race is not expected to get under way in earnest until January - Dixon has amassed a significant treasury of $278,000, more than double that of the next-best-funded candidate.

In a race that will likely be crowded and expensive, candidates will need to raise as much money as they can early next year. Still, a handful of potential contenders - such as former Rep. Kweisi Mfume - could almost surely raise hundreds of thousands of dollars very quickly if they ultimately decide to jump into the race.

Asked about her fundraising for 2007, Dixon said she is concentrating on serving the remainder of Gov.-elect Martin O'Malley's mayoral term. By city charter, Dixon takes over the reins at City Hall in January when O'Malley is sworn in as governor - a position she is certain to use to court voters.

"Right now, I'm going to focus on the transition of moving from City Council president to mayor," Dixon said. "As time goes on between now and January, if you want to come back and ask me that question ... I can give you more of a definitive answer."

O'Malley raised more than $1 million between midsummer and October 1999, the first year the then-councilman ran for mayor - though almost all of his cash came in late because he did not announce his candidacy until June 21. This time, candidates are not expected to start raising money until the beginning of next year.

State election law prohibits donors from giving more than $10,000 to all candidates for state and local offices during a four-year election cycle. Many already contributed the maximum to gubernatorial and legislative campaigns. A new cycle begins in January, and mayoral candidates are expected to pounce on potential donors then.

"I'm not going to be just watching football come January," joked City Council member Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr., who has been rumored as a potential candidate for mayor but who has not announced whether he will run. "It will be a new election cycle."

According to the most recent campaign reports filed with the Maryland State Board of Elections, Dixon had $278,588 on hand as of Oct. 22. She also managed to raise $42,735 between the end of August and that date, despite aggressive fundraising by O'Malley and U.S. Senate candidate Benjamin L. Cardin that was taking place at the same time.

City Comptroller Joan M. Pratt, who has also said she is considering a run, had $134,775 on hand but raised no money during the most recent reporting period. Mitchell had $32,813 in the bank. Mfume has $58,799 in a federal account, but he may use only $8,000 of that for a possible mayoral race, according to state election officials.

Baltimore's mayoral candidates will file subsequent campaign finance reports later this month and in January. State officeholders - including Del. Jill P. Carter, a Baltimore Democrat who has openly discussed running - are banned from raising money during the 90-day legislative session in Annapolis.

Matthew Crenson, a political scientist at the Johns Hopkins University, said he believes Dixon's interim-mayor status will be more significant than her early fundraising advantage. Dixon will have nearly a year to try on the job before the Sept. 11 primary. If she can survive the state prosecutor's investigation into alleged ethical lapses, her chances will improve, he said.

"At this point she's clearly the frontrunner. She has the most money and the best position," Crenson said. But "if somebody big were to step into the race - somebody like Kweisi Mfume - that $300,000 advantage would probably disappear."

Mfume lost his bid for U.S. Senate this year to Cardin during the Democratic primary, but in Baltimore City he received more than twice as many votes. Mfume has not said whether he will seek the office, but many believe if he did enter the race other candidates would bow out. He told The Sun yesterday that "it is a little premature. I don't want to create that drum beat when there's nothing really there."

Still, Mfume spent several hours discussing a wide range of topics, including city issues, on WBAL-AM radio yesterday. He demurred on questions of his political future and, instead, said that he wanted the best for Dixon.

"I don't have any plans to run for mayor," Mfume told WBAL. "She's worked for and deserves an opportunity to lead. ... I want her to succeed. I want the city to be united. I think at this point we owe her at least the opportunity to try to lead it."

john.fritze@baltsun.com

MONEY ON HAND

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