Bernstein raises five times more than Jessamy in contributions

State's attorney candidate's campaign funds total $217,870, compared to incumbent's $46,004

August 18, 2010|By Tricia Bishop, The Baltimore Sun

Baltimore state's attorney candidate Gregg Bernstein raised nearly five times as much money in campaign contributions as has incumbent Patricia C. Jessamy, giving him a strong financial edge over his opponent, according to election finance reports made available online Wednesday.

Bernstein, a former federal prosecutor who has worked in private practice since 1991, has raised $217,870 since June and still has most of it in the bank. Jessamy has raised $46,004 and is down to about $38,000 after spending the campaign funds she had remaining from past years along with cash she brought in this summer.

Bernstein's expenditures may ramp up, however, with less than a month to go before the primary Sept. 14, when the race between the two Democrats will be decided.

While Jessamy's 15 years in the position have earned her a long list of seemingly lifetime supporters — including Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, whose own campaign account, Cummings for Congress, contributed $2,000 to hers — Bernstein has emerged as a significant challenger.

Not since 1982, when Kurt L. Schmoke unseated incumbent William A. Swisher, has the race for the top prosecutor position been so competitive. Office holders since then have been appointed to the position, then typically run unopposed, though Jessamy had two challengers in 2002.

Anton J.S. Keating, a defense attorney and former prosecutor, was one of them. He raised about $56,000 compared with Jessamy's $79,000 in 2002. And he didn't do a whole lot with it, finding yard signs somewhat gauche.

Bernstein "is playing the game more than I did," Keating said.

Bernstein signs are evident all over his Roland Park neighborhood. Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III also endorsed Bernstein with a yard sign, until pressure from Jessamy and others led him to remove it amid claims of impropriety.

Criminal defense attorney William R. Buie III contributed $500 to Jessamy's campaign. In an interview, he said she is one of the few constants in the city's criminal justice system, which has seen frequent turnover in positions such as police commissioner.

"I actually think that, despite what's been said about her, at least by her opponent, that with the resources that she's had over the last 15 years, that she's done a good job," Buie said.

The roughly 200 city prosecutors handle tens of thousands of cases every year. And there are currently three dozen job openings that the office can't afford to fill, and 11 daily absences because of furlough requirements.

"The real problem in Baltimore has to do with the court system," Buie said. "And that hasn't been discussed at all. We need a new courthouse, more judges and more courtrooms. I think that should at least be a part of the discussion."

Neither candidate chose to comment Wednesday, a day after each filed finance reports, which included contributions going back to June, The reports were due midnight Tuesday.

Jessamy's report showed 81 contributions, totaling $18,944, from individuals and businesses in amounts ranging from $20 to $1,000. She raised another $21,748 in ticket sales, and more than $5,000 was donated by other state candidates.

Bernstein brought in 446 contributions from businesses and individuals, in amounts ranging from $4,000 to a 9-cent PayPal payment. They added up to more than $215,000 of his total amount raised.

Sanford Cardin, who met Bernstein 30 years ago in law school and now works for a philanthropic organization in Oklahoma, contributed $4,000 to Bernstein through an investment company.

In an interview, Cardin called Bernstein's candidacy a "really huge statement of willingness to serve the public."

tricia.bishop@baltsun.com

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