Kamenetz outspending Bartenfelder in costly Balto. Co. exec primary

Two Democrats battling in what has already become million-dollar affair

August 17, 2010|By Arthur Hirsch, The Baltimore Sun

With just over four weeks to go before the primary election, Baltimore County executive candidate Kevin Kamenetz has already spent over a million dollars on his campaign, more than three times his chief rival for the Democratic nomination, fellow County Councilman Joseph Bartenfelder.

Campaign finance reports filed for the latest deadline Tuesday suggest that voters can expect to see a bit more of Kamenetz on television, and lots of Bartenfelder volunteers working the districts, handing out literature and planting campaign signs. The two council veterans are facing each other in the most hotly contested county executive primary in decades.

The spending disparity reflects a difference in resources. Kamenetz has raised $1.4 million and spent just over $1 million, while Bartenfelder has raised $810,000 and spent $349,854. The Kamenetz campaign has spent most of its money so far making and airing television advertisements, which debuted last Monday, while Bartenfelder won't start his television spots until next week.

The Kamenetz campaign reported a cash balance of $357,425; Bartenfelder had $461,218 cash on hand.

"We have an entire county," said Kamenetz campaign manager Peter Clerkin. "We have to communicate Kevin's message about public safety, good schools and jobs for the county."

Kamenetz has been airing two 30-second TV spots on police and schools, with an advertisement focusing on jobs yet to come, said Clerkin. He would not say how many ads are planned, but said that the $865,750 spent on media so far was mostly for producing and airing television spots and that that amount will carry the campaign through the primary on Sept. 14.

A 60-second Kamenetz radio ad has also been on for about a week, Clerkin said. It focuses on endorsements, education and public safety.

Bartenfelder's campaign chairman, W. Michael Seganish, said his candidate's 30-second TV spots are scheduled to begin airing on Monday. They'll run for just over three weeks before the primary, or about half the span of time that Kamenetz ads will be seen. Both campaigns were planning to run ads on all four network affiliate TV stations and some cable as well.

Tom Welzenbach, Bartenfelder's campaign manager, said the television and radio ads are still being produced, and he could not say what specific themes they would convey.

"The message really is, 'Who is Joe? What kind of guy is he?'" said Welzenbach.

Donald Norris, chairman of the Department of Public Policy at University of Maryland, Baltimore County, was surprised to hear about the amount and timing of Kamenetz's media outlay.

"It's awfully early to be spending on media with an election that's a month away," said Norris. "I wonder how effective a media buy like that will be."

He also wondered if the spending so far suggests that if Kamenetz wins, it could mean his campaign could approach $2 million, or about double the sum several political observers predicted the campaign would cost before it began.

Both are hoping to face Kenneth C. Holt of Kingsville, an executive with the investment firm Morgan Stanley Smith Barney and former state delegate. Holt, 59, reported a campaign cash balance of $108,481, and just $21,830 in expenses.

Holt noted Kamenetz's and Bartenfelder's cash-on-hand figure and said that "our planning was to be even with them in money in the bank once the race begins" after the primary. "We are basically targeting about $400,000 for a general election expense."

Seganish said Bartenfelder is counting on volunteers to give the campaign "more bang for the buck."

"Our target was to raise $1 million," he said. "We never thought we'd raise dollar-for-dollar against Kamenetz."

He emphasized that Bartenfelder is "running your traditional, all-around campaign … your shoe leather kind of campaign, your grassroots kind of campaign where we're going door-to-door."

The new finance report, for instance, shows that Bartenfelder spent $140,690 on printing and campaign materials, four times the figure for Kamenetz, reflecting more spending on campaign signs and fliers given out to voters.

The third candidate for the Democratic nomination, Ronald E. Harvey, a retired employee of the Baltimore County Office of Human Resources, had not yet sent a report to the state Board of Elections as of late yesterday afternoon, but he had until midnight to file it electronically. He said he would be filing a report of his campaign cash balance of about $5,000, but he had no spending to report.

"If we can raise another $5,000, I think we'll be in good shape," said Harvey, 63, who lives in Nottingham.

Kamenetz, 52, a lawyer and former Baltimore City prosecutor from Owings Mills, and Bartenfelder, 53, a farmer and former state delegate from Fullerton, have both served on the County Council since 1994. Both men are touting their ability to manage the county through further difficult economic straits that are expected to lie ahead, and have emphasized the need to revitalize older neighborhoods and to attract more business to the county.

Baltimore County voters will select a new county executive this year to replace Democrat James T. Smith Jr., who has served the maximum two terms.

arthur.hirsch@baltsun.com

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