Dixon rakes in funds

Mayor's $1.2 million nearly double Mitchell's

Baltimore Votes

Primary Sept. 11, 2007

August 10, 2007|By Sumathi Reddy | Sumathi Reddy,Sun reporter

Mayor Sheila Dixon has raised nearly twice as much in campaign contributions as City Councilman Keiffer J. Mitchell since Jan. 11 and has nearly four times as much cash left heading into the September Democratic primary for mayor, according to preliminary figures released yesterday.

Dixon's campaign has raised at least $1.2 million between Jan. 11 and Aug. 7, compared with $651,000 raised by the Mitchell campaign.

Dixon's campaign has $723,000 cash on hand, while Mitchell's has $200,000.

The two are among eight candidates running in the Sept. 11 Democratic primary for mayor. The two other elected officials running for mayor, Del. Jill P. Carter and city Circuit Court Clerk Frank M. Conaway Sr., said their figures were not yet available.

All candidates running in city races must file campaign finance reports with the Maryland State Board of Elections by Aug. 14.

Martha McKenna, a spokeswoman for Dixon, said the campaign was "pleased with the strong support that the mayor is getting from residents across the city."

Donors who have given the maximum $4,000 to Dixon's campaign, according to McKenna, include NBA basketball star Sam Cassell, a Baltimore native who plays for the Los Angeles Clippers in the NBA; Rep. Elijah E. Cummings; the Rev. Frank M. Reid III, pastor of Dixon's church; Edwin F. Hale Sr., chairman of 1st Mariner Bank and the city's visitors bureau; and businesses controlled by John Paterakis, one of the city's most prominent businessmen.

Dixon also received maximum contributions of $6,000 from several unions, such as 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades and Baltimore's Carpenters Union.

"At this point, with 33 days left in the race, we have a smart and aggressive plan to continue communicating with voters through Election Day and that plan will be well-funded," McKenna said.

McKenna said Dixon's preliminary figures do not include all in-kind donations - such as food and other nonmonetary donations - which would increase the amount of money raised but not the amount of cash left.

The Dixon campaign spent $806,000 during the period, McKenna said, including more than $100,000 on a television ad, $75,000 on polling and about $40,000 on signs and billboards.

The Mitchell campaign did not have a figure for money spent because the numbers are being audited after a discovery that Mitchell's father made $40,000 in questionable expenditures.

Dr. Keiffer J. Mitchell Sr., a well-known doctor of internal medicine and gastroenterologist, has since resigned as his son's treasurer.

Jayson Williams, campaign manager for Mitchell, said their figures showed "a lot of momentum building up in the race toward the end."

Since July 27, Williams said, the campaign has raised $18,500 online, and more than $70,000 in donations have come in the week before the Aug. 7 deadline.

About 77 percent of all contributions are $250 or less, and more than $60,000 has been raised online, he said.

"This is a tremendous grass-roots operation," Williams said.

Williams said the campaign's goal is to raise $1.2 million, which is what Gov. Martin O'Malley raised in his first mayoral campaign in 1999.

"We're pretty confident that we're going to raise those numbers," Williams said.

But Donald Norris, a professor of public policy at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, said Mitchell's campaign "is in real trouble" given Dixon's 2-to-1 edge in fundraising coupled with her 30-plus percentage points lead in a poll conducted for The Sun last month.

"The problem with his campaign finances has really diverted attention from his campaign," said Norris. "And the fact that she's been able to out-raise him by 100 percent suggests to me that, while I wouldn't want to say that the campaign is over, it's pretty close to it."

"It doesn't seem that his candidacy has caught fire," he added.

Other experts said that the fundraising numbers show the potency of incumbency, even one that's just seven months old.

"Incumbency gives Dixon a tremendous advantage in fundraising, and I think that's reflected in the numbers you see," said Ronald Walters, a political science professor at the University of Maryland, College Park. "I think she's going to be able to coast with that $700,000 to the finish line.

"He's going to have to out-campaign her, and that takes money," he added.

Carol Hirschburg, a Republican strategist, said Mitchell's total was not "terrible."

"He certainly has a shot," she said. "You can never tell what's going to happen in an election. ... In my experience a lot of money comes in at the end."

But Hirschburg said she did not find either total particularly noteworthy.

"I don't find either one of their totals impressive compared to what is out there and what is available," she said.

sumathi.reddy@baltsun.com

Campaign funds

Mayor Sheila Dixon

Amount raised from Jan. 11 to Aug. 7: $1.2 million (subject to change when in-kind donations are factored in)

Cash on hand: $723,000

City Councilman Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr.

Amount Raised from Jan. 11 to Aug. 7: $651,000

Cash on hand: $200,000

Sources: Dixon and Mitchell campaigns

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