At a time when campaigns in Baltimore usually are over, candidates in two City Council races are spending thousands of dollars battling to win the Nov. 8 general election.
In East Baltimore's 13th District, Councilman Warren Branch has spent more than $33,000 since the Sept. 13 primary defending his seat from write-in challenger Shannon Sneed, who lost to him by 43 votes. The money is more than the $26,000 Branch spent in the entire year before the primary, according to campaign finance reports filed Friday and made public Monday.
Branch also reported hiring a campaign consulting firm with ties to controversial political consultant Julius Henson. Since the primary, Branch has paid $6,250 to Baltimore-based IQ & Associates for "persuasion" and "pressure" calls, among other activities, his report shows. IQ & Associates was founded in June 2010 by Iris W. Queen, who describes herself in an online resume as director of field operations for Universal Elections Inc.
Universal Elections Inc. is the firm founded by Henson, who has worked for such high-profile Maryland candidates as former Govs. Parris N. Glendening and Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. Henson crafted ads in Glendening's 1998 campaign that sought to portray Republican candidate Ellen R. Sauerbrey as a racist.
This year, Henson was indicted on charges of conspiracy to violate Maryland election laws while working for Ehrlich's 2010 campaign. Henson is set to go on trial Nov. 15 in Baltimore Circuit Court after he allegedly authorized an election night "robocall" intended to trick Democratic voters into staying home from the polls.
In an interview Monday, Branch said he had never heard of IQ & Associates. He said his brother, state Del. Talmadge Branch, was handling the particulars of his campaign. Talmadge Branch denied that Monday, and said his brother runs his own campaign.
Queen did not return a phone call seeking comment.
Henson, who has two Warren Branch signs posted outside his house, said he was not directly involved in the Branch campaign. He noted that Queen has worked for candidates throughout the state and her work will ensure that Branch "whips [Sneed's] tail."
"Warren Branch is a friend of mine," Henson, 62, said. "Talmadge Branch is a friend of mine. If friends of mine ask me for a recommendation for who does good work, I give them a recommendation. IQ Associates do good work. … No, they don't give me no money."
Branch has raised more than $18,000 since the primary election, with his biggest contributions coming from his brother ($5,000) and City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young ($3,000), according to his reports.
Some unions and political action committees for groups including the city police, fire fighters, engineers, bricklayers, pilots and the soft drink association also have donated money to Branch.
Branch has a cash balance of about $4,000.
"I'm an elected official running for office," Warren Branch said. "I'm raising money like the mayor and everybody else."
Meanwhile, Sneed, a former television journalist, has raised more than $6,000 since the primary, almost as much as the $8,000 she raised in the months before it. Her biggest donation is $3,000 from the Union for Food and Commercial Workers Local 27.
She has spent about $3,000 — mainly on printing supplies — and has $7,000 left to spend in the campaign's final week, her report shows.
The other high-profile write-in challenge generating significant spending is the 7th District race between Nick Mosby and the councilwoman he defeated in the primary, Belinda Conaway.
Mosby, a political newcomer, has spent more than $22,000 and raised nearly $20,000 since the primary.
He's received support from the Democratic establishment, including $4,000 from Councilman William H. Cole IV, $1,000 from U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, and $750 from Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. He also received more than $3,000 worth of "Get Out to Vote" calls from Rawlings-Blake's campaign team. His biggest expenditure was a $19,000 payment to an Evanston, Ill., company, Campaign Industries LLC.
Conaway, meanwhile, has spent more than $10,000 since the primary — more than double the $4,000 she spent in the year before — but has raised only $825 since Sept. 13. Her biggest expenditure was a $2,500 payment to Letter Perfect, a Baltimore-based word processing service.
Conaway's campaign is now running a $3,000 deficit.