With spring comes fundraising fever

Political notebook

April 08, 2007|By Larry Carson

The last election was just five cold months ago, but as spring blooms, many politicians are thinking about -- you guessed it -- fundraising.

"I think we're looking to do one major event like this a year, and one family-style, low-dollar picnic," County Executive Ken Ulman said about his Ten Oaks Ballroom event planned for Clarksville on Tuesday night.

Although council members Calvin Ball and Courtney Watson have recently held fundraising events, state legislators cannot schedule them until after the General Assembly's annual 90-day session adjourns tomorrow. That gives county officials an advantage.

Several state legislators said they are planning events for May or June.

"I'm not going to wait until the last year. My goal is to do two a year," said freshman state Sen. James N. Robey, a Democrat. State Sen. Edward J. Kasemeyer said he, too, is aiming for June.

Last year, Ulman hustled to raise money in a short time after his plan for a County Council re-election bid turned into a countywide race for executive against Republican colleague Christopher J. Merdon. Over his four-year council term, Ulman raised and spent nearly $800,000 in that campaign, compared with Merdon's roughly $600,000.

Ulman's two-tiered event Tuesday -- featuring a 6 p.m. reception for those paying $500 to $1,000 each, and a 7 p.m. start for $100 to $250 donors -- will pay off a few leftover bills and start a kitty for a re-election campaign, if things go well, he said.

"If I feel like after three years or so that the public thinks I did a good job, and I think I did a good job and the family agrees, that [re-election] is the plan. I also know, based on my own political career, that you don't plan too much."

Ball, an east Columbia Democrat, had a $25-a-person affair at the Apple Ford showroom March 25, drawing U. S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, among others.

Ball plans to have at least one event a year to build his financial base gradually. He figures to clear up to $14,000, he said.

"My goal is to raise a little bit each year, so that in year four if I choose to run again I can be an effective council person" without having to spend inordinate time raising money.

Courtney Watson, an Ellicott City Democrat, had a $75-a-ticket affair March 16 at a private home, where she said freshman U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes was the featured guest, regaling guests with tales of his first three months on the job.

Watson said campaigns are increasingly expensive, and "I don't want to have to raise it all in one year. Unfortunately, it's part of the price you pay for being an elected official."

Although they cannot hold events yet, it does not mean state legislators are not planning them.

Freshman Del. Guy Guzzone is planning a June house party at $35 a person, though he supported legislation this year to create publicly financed elections.

"I would prefer we go in that direction, but once again, I'm not going to unilaterally disarm," he said.

Aiming for `green'

If federal and state money becomes available to replace Howard Transit's bright green vehicles, County Executive Ken Ulman is vowing to pay the difference, if necessary, to make them energy-saving, cleaner-burning hybrid vehicles.

Ulman made the pledge to provide the extra $80,000 to $100,000 per vehicle as he helped celebrate new schedules featuring less waiting time for riders at the main bus stop behind Sears at The Mall in Columbia on Monday.

Most of the 27-bus fleet is about seven years old with more than 200,000 miles each -- the end of their normal life span -- and Ulman says he is hoping for federal and state funds to allow the system to begin getting replacements. Typically, the federal government pays 80 percent of the cost, and the state and county split the rest.

But Ulman told more than 50 eager volunteers wearing bright green T-shirts labeled People Acting Together in Howard that he is committed to making progress on environmental issues.

"We've got to do better," Ulman said through a battery-powered megaphone provided by leaders of the grass-roots community group that has pushed for improvements in transit services.

The new schedules were devised to reduce wait times for riders to 30 minutes from 60 minutes at most Columbia stops. Fares were cut to 25 cents a ride, instead of the usual $1.50, Monday and Tuesday to help attract riders and draw attention to the changes.

Lucas bill passes

The bill is named for him, but it won't help Pieter Lucas, 22, the former Howard County auxiliary police officer who lost part of his left leg the night before Thanksgiving 2005 while directing traffic at an accident scene at U.S. 40 and Pebble Beach Drive.

Senate Bill 745, the Pieter Lucas bill, was approved unanimously by both houses of the Maryland General Assembly. It extends workers' compensation insurance benefits to volunteer auxiliary police officers injured on duty. Initially sponsored by Republicans, Sen. Allan H. Kittleman and Dels. Gail H. Bates and Warren E. Miller, the bill was supported by the entire Howard County delegation.

"We put it in because we thought it was important to protect those who are willing to put their lives on the line for us," Kittleman said Friday.

Under county law, Lucas was not covered by workers' compensation insurance, though the Maryland Workers' Compensation Commission eventually ruled the county was liable for Lucas' medical bills. Privately, West Friendship firefighters, police and county residents raised more than $125,000 to help Lucas, who was pestered by bill collectors for months.

larry.carson@baltsun.com

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