The race to become Howard County's next executive is shaping up, with potential candidates stashing money in the bank for the chance to replace term-limited Ken Ulman, who is considering a run for higher office.
Campaign finance reports, released this week, show potential contenders gearing up ahead of the 2014 election, including Del. Guy Guzzone and Howard County Councilwoman Courtney Watson, who are Democrats, and Republican Sen. Allan Kittleman.
Guzzone said he banked roughly $92,000 in 2011 and has a balance of about $192,000.
Watson, of Ellicott City, raised the most of the possible county executive candidates in the past 12 months, with $165,700. She has $171,700 on hand.
Kittleman raised nearly $79,000 and has about $62,800 in cash.
Donald F. Norris, a Howard County resident and chairman of the department of public policy at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, said the size of a contender's bank account is not necessarily an indication of his or her electability.
But the campaign season will be in full swing in two years, Norris said, and viable candidates should begin fundraising soon.
The three potential candidates for executive, as well as Ulman, said they are focused on their current jobs and have made no decisions about their next political move.
Ulman is among a handful of Democrats considering a campaign to replace Gov. Martin O'Malley, who cannot run again because of term limits. Ulman raised more than $1 million in the past year and has $1.3 million in his treasury.
Nearly 40 percent of his cash was raised in Howard County, Ulman said. Overall, 38 percent came from businesses and 57 percent from individuals, he said. Nearly 5 percent came donations from political action committees.
Ulman said many of his supporters want him to spread the successes in Howard County, such as the state's lowest unemployment rate, safe communities and strong schools, to the region and state.
The county's leaders have made strategic decisions about land development, invested in public schools and created vibrant libraries and parks, he said. That translates into well-educated residents who have good jobs, Ulman said.
"That doesn't happen by accident," he said.
Watson said a run for executive is still just a consideration. Still, she said, her current fundraising record is consistent with her political start as a grass-roots activist: 73 percent of her contributions were for $250 or less.
During the next three years and beyond, Watson said, her goal will be to make Howard a friendly place to do business and a place where residents can count on strong schools and reliable roads.
"We're talking about not next year, but the next 20 years," she said.
Guzzone, chairman of the Howard County delegation to the General Assembly, said he has a long history of working on behalf of county residents. He doesn't expect to decide for at least a year whether to run for county executive. His report was not immediately available on the state campaign finance website; he provided his totals in an interview.
He said he stands on his record in the county, where, he said, the quality of life is second to none.
"I have been directly involved in helping to create an atmosphere in Howard County for well over a decade, several decades," he said.
Kittleman said he hasn't decided whether he will seek re-election to the state Senate, retire after nearly a quarter-century in public service or run for county executive. The new map for his district, part of the state's once-a-decade legislative redistricting process, could give Kittleman a harder road toward re-election.
He has less than half of what his potential Democratic rivals for county executive have in the bank, but Kittleman also noted that as state legislators, he and Guzzone are barred from raising campaign cash during the 90 days the General Assembly is in session.
Kittleman said Howard benefits when its political leaders have diverse philosophical viewpoints.
"My vision is for Howard County to be an innovative place," he said. "I think we could be more business-friendly and have more economic freedom."
Money in the bank
Potential 2014 contenders for Howard County executive reveal their finances in annual campaign disclosure reports.
Here's a look at their cash in the bank:
•Del. Guy Guzzone: $192,000
•Howard County Councilwoman Courtney Watson: $171,700
•Sen. Allan Kittleman: $62,800