Steele visits Howard to help Schrader raise money

National party chairman aids council candidate

August 29, 2010|By Larry Carson, The Baltimore Sun

Republican National Party Chairman Michael S. Steele smiled broadly as he pressed the flesh Tuesday night in the large study of businessman J.P. Bolduc's 8,077-square-foot Clarksville mansion, where he was the guest of honor for a fundraiser to benefit Dennis R. Schrader's County Council campaign.

A reporter was asked to leave the premises after getting that one glimpse, though Schrader and others who attended said Wednesday that Steele's comments were ordinary campaign fare. Steele had insisted the event be private, Schrader said.

"He was a special guest. You usually honor the wishes of a guest."

Having their pictures taken with Steele, a former Maryland lieutenant governor and a U.S. Senate candidate in 2006, cost the roughly 80 to 100 party faithful $500 each, while tickets were $125. Schrader, who hopes to unseat incumbent Democrat Jennifer Terrasa, said he raised more than $10,000 to add to the $35,066 he reported raising in his Aug. 17 filing. Terrasa raised $4,025 this year, but had $53,140 left to spend.

Howard Del. Gail H. Bates, who also attended, said Steele "gave everybody a charge." He roused the crowd by asking each person to compose the news headline they'd like to see Nov. 3, the day after the general election, and then write it down and look at it every day. "What did you do today to make that come true?" Bates said Steele told attendees to ask themselves.

Bolduc, a former CEO of Columbia-based W.R. Grace and Co. and a Clarksville resident for the past two decades, often supports Republicans.

Terrasa said Wednesday that she's never had a private event. "I've never kicked a reporter out. The more the merrier" is her motto, she said.

But Republicans aren't the only ones who hold private campaign events.

Democratic Rep. John Sarbanes went to the Oakland Mills home of Columbia Democratic Club President Abby Hendrix last Sunday to meet with about 25 Democrats, talk about national issues and ask for grass-roots campaign help. It was not a fundraising event, Hendrix said, but something she conceived as an informal, private gathering.

"I hadn't talked to him about having media there," she said, and thus felt she should keep it private.

New voter rolls

Howard County Democrats and voters not affiliated with either of the major political parties have registered at a much faster pace than Republicans since this time in 2006, according to election board figures. Registrations were frozen at the close of business Tuesday until after the Sept. 14 primary; early voting begins Friday.

Since this point in 2006, Democrats have gained 7,074 voters compared to a 101 voter gain for Republicans. Independents, unaffiliated and other party voters gained 8,314 registrants over the same period. Democrats are now 92,572 strong, compared to 59,566 Republicans and 40,726 others, Board deputy administrator Guy Mickley said the bulk of new voters registered in 2008, for the presidential election.

Money matters

While it's true that incumbents normally collect more campaign donations than challengers, that's not always the case.

County Councilman Greg Fox, a Fulton Republican who is running for reelection to a second council term, raised not one penny since the January campaign finance report, according to his latest filing. Fox said he still has all the signs and literature printed for his 2006 campaign, and "I only spent $5,000 on the general election last time. He reported having $21,703 on hand in what has been a safe district for Republicans covering the western county and Fulton.

Fox is facing Dr. Zaneb "Zee" Beams, a vigorous, aggressive, but novice Democrat this year. Beams reported having $5,669.93 on hand in her report, but she had a fundraiser scheduled Friday in Maple Lawn.

Taxing issue

At Republican gubernatorial hopeful Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s invitation-only business complaint session at a Glenwood restaurant Aug. 19, he talked about the problems small business owners encounter in Maryland, but Mary Esmond's problem got a less-sympathetic reaction than most others.

The owner of a small home-furnishing business, Esmond said she finds people come to her to look at products and materials, but then go on the Internet and buy the items without paying sales tax or shipping costs.

"They go home and Google it and get free shipping" without paying any taxes. She said it puts retailers like her at a disadvantage, suggesting that perhaps the state could begin taxing Internet purchases to put brick-and-mortar merchants on a level playing field. She apparently had not understood Ehrlich's low-tax campaign mantra.

"Taxing the Internet is something we really don't want to do," Ehrlich said in reply,

Earlier, he gave the 30 participants a flier titled "Bob Ehrlich will stop 43 new sales taxes," listing 22 possible kinds of services that "could be taxed under the O'Malley administration in 2011." Included were services that included motor vehicle repairs, hair styling and business consulting.

Ehrlich has been using predictions of a possible tax increase as a way to get people to vote for him rather than incumbent Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat. The former Republican governor said he would oppose any increase in alcohol taxes, too, if elected, even though the state levy on spirits hasn't increased since the 1950s and on beer since 1972. He has not explained how he would raise enough revenue to meet the state's expenses, however.

"I like being lower [taxed] than other states," Ehrlich said.

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