Ulman's supporters crammed into the Spear Center ballroom at a Columbia office park Thursday night, sipping drinks and mingling. Many said they were longtime donors. Ryan Frederic, a Republican who attended Ulman's fundraiser, said he was happy to support Ulman no matter what comes next. "So, he's got to have a job. He's going to stay in politics," Frederic said. "Ken's been better than most at being accountable."

"Whether he runs for governor or another office, he's the right guy," he said. "He's the kind of politician I want to see in government. He's not aligned with my ideology, but he's the person I want to see in office."

Ulman said he was "flattered" by the speculation that he might run but would not commit. He has hired Rachael Rice, a well-known fundraiser with statewide connections, to pull in campaign contributions.

Lt. Gov. Brown, another term-limited contender, has held about half a dozen events this year, including one in September at Martin's Valley Mansion in Hunt Valley. The cheapest tickets: $250 according to the invitation. Colleen Martin-Lauer, who raises money for O'Malley, is handing Brown's events.

Marc P. Goldberg, a spokesman for Brown, said he "is fully focused" on his current job.

But others are prodding him. The Frederick News-Post reported that state Sen. Ronald N. Young, a Democrat, introduced Brown at Frederick Rotary Club meeting Wednesday by saying: "I think he's the kind of person we want to see in higher office."

Joseph Shapiro, a spokesman for Franchot, said "it is not a secret" that the comptroller is "considering" a gubernatorial run in 2014. "He recognizes that the next election is three years away and the taxpayers of Maryland have hired him to do the job of comptroller and do it well," Shapiro said.

Gansler, who has a reputation as a money-raising machine, is the only one of the four who has not hired a professional fundraiser. Instead, Antigone Davis, a senior adviser in the attorney general's office and a longtime aide, handles his campaign money events on a volunteer basis.

Gansler said that he always holds two fundraisers a year. This year was no different. "My fundraising doesn't at all reflect running for governor," Gansler said. "If I do run, the relevant year will be 2013," Gansler said. "That will be the year that I start, if I in fact decide to run."

Of course, he can afford to wait. In the last public reporting period he showed an eye-popping $2.9 million in his bank account. That was 11 months ago, and Gansler said he hasn't spent any money.

The same report showed that Franchot had $515,000; Ulman had about $449,000 and Brown had $126,000. Republicans Leopold had nearly $424,000 and Craig had $65,000.

All eyes will be on the next reports, which come out January. After that, campaigns can be silent about financing for another year.

annie.linskey@baltsun.com

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jessica.anderson@baltsun.com

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