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Filings reveal cash on hand for potential Baltimore mayoral candidates

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake leads the money race against potential future political opponents with more than $350,000 on hand, a review of the most recent campaign finance reports shows.

Rawlings-Blake, who is up for re-election in November 2016, raised about $15,000 in the most recent reporting period, which ran from June 9 to Aug. 19. The filings were due Aug. 26.

While potential mayoral contenders are keeping their plans close to the vest, political observers say the filings reveal others who might be considering a run for the city's top elected post.

Challengers could include City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young, who has about $340,000, former Mayor Sheila Dixon, who has $280,000; and state Sen. Catherine E. Pugh, who has $120,000 on hand.

The filings, required by the State Board of Elections, are an accounting of how much prospective candidates raise or spend and do not require them to declare what office they might seek.

Even with a full war chest, challengers would have a tough time facing Rawlings-Blake, said Nina Kasniunas, an assistant professor of political science at Goucher College.

"Love her or hate her," Kasniunas said, "she has name recognition unlike anyone else."

Young, who won his first citywide campaign in 2011 after 15 years on the council, did not immediately return a message seeking comment. He has acknowledged briefly considering a run for mayor, but hasn't spoken publicly about such a desire in years.

His post has been a stepping stone for five of the city's past seven mayors. Besides Rawlings-Blake and Dixon, they are Thomas D'Alesandro III, William Donald Schaefer and Clarence H. Du Burns.

Dixon, who resigned as mayor after being convicted of stealing gift cards meant for low-income families, declined to say whether she would try to win back her old job, but she wouldn't rule it out.

"You never say never," Dixon said Thursday.

Dixon was cleared to seek elected office after settling the criminal case connected to the embezzlement charges and completing probation.

Dixon's latest filing, submitted in January, reported that she had $280,000 in the bank. She said she now has less than that, but wasn't sure of the exact balance. Dixon said she plans to meet with her treasurer soon and submit an updated filing.

Late filings cost $20 a day for the first six days and $10 a day after that with a penalty of up to $250.

Pugh came in second behind Rawlings-Blake in the 2011 Democratic mayoral primary with 25 percent of the vote to Rawlings-Blake's 52 percent. Pugh did not return a request seeking comment for this article.

Pugh reported about $18,000 in new contributions for the latest disclosure period, including $500 from a city firefighters union, $500 from Comcast Corp. PAC and $2,000 from B.U.I.L.D., a construction industry trade group.

Among Rawlings-Blake's latest contributions was about $5,000 from individuals associated with Exelon Corp., Constellation Energy Group, and Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.

Young took in about $14,000, including $300 from BWI Management LLC, $500 from Baltimore Steel Erectors LLC of White Marsh and $500 from Beatty Harvey and Associates of New York, one of the firms working on the Harbor Point development.

Of the three potential contenders, Dixon has done the most to signal an interest in competing for the mayor's office, with regular appearances at community events, Kasniunas said. "It's an indication that she's testing the water."

Whether best-selling author Wes Moore will run for mayor has been the subject of wide speculation. Moore, a Rhodes scholar and military veteran, has said he has no intention of running for office and did not report raising any campaign funds to the State Board of Elections.

Kasniunas said Councilman William H. Cole IV's name also had been bandied about as a possible contender in 2016, but that looks unlikely after the mayor tapped him to lead the Baltimore Development Corp., a quasi-public agency charged with boosting the city's economy.

"Whether that's a strategic move on her part or whether she sees him as an ally who has the same vision ... that's up to the individual's perspective," Kasniunas said.

Cole reported that he had $136,000 in the bank.

Kasniunas called Councilman Carl Stokes a "wild card."

Stokes launched a brief run for mayor in 2011, but abandoned his bid, saying he wanted to reduce the number of contenders to improve the odds that Rawlings-Blake would be defeated. He has been a frequent critic of the Rawlings-Blake administration, including being a staunch opponent of taxpayer assistance for the development of Harbor Point.

A Democrat up for re-election in November 2016, Stokes reported raising nearly $28,000 between Jan. 9 and Aug. 19 with $105,500 cash on hand.

He said he's focused on raising money to retain his District 12 council seat. He said he's following guidance from advisers who suggested he spread his fundraising out over the length of his term so he can concentrate on campaigning when it gets closer to the election.

He said he wants to be prepared to face potential challengers.

"The last time I ran, there was a strong effort to unseat me," Stokes said.

Among Stokes' contributions was $500 from lobbyist Frank D. Boston III, $1,000 from Seawell Development Co. and $1,000 from the Korean American Coalition Inc. of Parkville.

Councilman James B. Kraft, whose most recent report was filed in January, reported having about $100,000 on hand.

Councilwoman Sharon Green Middleton had $43,000. Council members Edward Reisinger, Rochelle "Rikki" Spector and William "Pete" Welch each had about $25,000. Spector's and Welch's most recent council campaign filings are from June.

Councilman Brandon M. Scott had about $15,000 in his account, reported in June.

Councilman Warren Branch, Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke and Councilwoman Helen Holton each had about $10,000. The other members — Robert W. Curran, Bill Henry, and Nick Mosby — each had about $5,000 or less. Curran filed last in June, and Mosby's most recent update was filed in January.

Many city elected officials contributed money to the campaigns of their political allies, including Reisinger, who gave $6,000 to Marilyn J. Mosby, who upset incumbent State's Attorney Gregg L. Bernstein by winning the Democratic nomination for the post.

Reisinger also paid teams of campaign workers $7,000 to support a group of candidates on primary day. Reisinger said he wanted to give Marilyn Mosby an added push that day, so he asked many of those workers to wear T-shirts with her campaign logo.

Jared DeMarinis, director of the State Board of Election's campaign finance division, declined to comment on any specific case, but he said hiring Election Day workers to aid another campaign could be considered an in-kind donation to that campaign. Such donations may not exceed $4,000, he said.

Reisinger said he didn't think the financial support for Marilyn Mosby coupled with the hiring of campaign workers ran contrary to election rules.

Baltimore Sun reporter Luke Broadwater contributed to this article.

ywenger@baltsun.com

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