Howard County Executive Ken Ulman was more than 100 miles away from home, but he still managed to host a fundraiser Thursday with more than 100 people in attendance.
A few of the attendees at the Ocean City event, held at Hooper’s Crab House, were supporters from Howard, but many were from other parts of the state.
This is at least the third year Ulman has hosted a crab feast fundraiser in Ocean City, held in time with the annual Maryland Association of Counties summer conference.
Thursday’s event, however, drew more people than last year’s, according to Rachael Rice, president of Rice Consulting, the firm heading Ulman’s campaign efforts.
“It’s really obvious to me how much more Ken’s profile has grown,” Rice said.
Ulman has not announced but is widely known to be considering a run for governor in 2014.
Normally, when Ulman addresses crowds he talks about Howard County and rattles off reasons why he believes it is one of the best counties in the state and the country.
Thursday, in brief remarks to the crowd at his fundraiser, he talked about Maryland being a great state and his desire to make it better.
“We’ve got to start working together (to show) that we’re the place starting to create the jobs of the future,” Ulman said.
He added: “I’m tired of hearing about Delaware. I’m tired of hearing about Virginia.”
Asked later about the fundraiser, Ulman noted he was “thrilled” with the turnout.
“It’s a great opportunity to kind of celebrate with our friends from around the state,” he said.
Ulman was not the only gubernatorial hopeful celebrating with people from around the state.
Three other elected officials who are also considered potential gubernatorial candidates — Lt. Gov Anthony Brown, Attorney General Doug Gansler and Comptroller Peter Franchot — all planned fundraisers in conjunction with the MACo conference, held Aug. 15 to Aug. 18.
Asked about the other events, Ulman said: “I wish them all well.”
Further probed about the competition, Ulman noted he is focused on making sure his events are successful.
“I really don’t focus on thinking a lot about what other people are doing,” he said.
Many of the people who attended the fundraiser have known Ulman for years. But Trudy Anderson, chairwoman of the Wicomico County Democratic Central Committee, was meeting him for the first time.
“In the political circle we’ve been hearing his name quite a bit,” Anderson said, noting the mentions of Ulman have all been positive things.
Anderson said the central committee was not endorsing Ulman or any candidate at this time. Asked about Ulman’s potential competition, she was hesitant to comment, noting, “I don’t know that anyone’s openly declared like he has.”
With Anderson were Wicomico central committee staff members Miguel Mitchell and Sarah Myers, both of whom had met Ulman before.
Mitchell said he was with Ulman when he visited some business in downtown Salisbury with Mayor Jim Ireton last week.
“He really seems to be a good mediator between business and environmental issues,” Mitchell said about Ulman.
Myers was also impressed with Ulman’s interest in bringing jobs to the Eastern Shore.
“His enthusiasm, it’s really amazing,” she said. “He just seems to love Maryland, all of it, not just Howard County. And he really wants to do good with the people.”
Myers added: “The Chesapeake Bay is so important to us here … it just seems like a lot of other politicians don’t care about that.” But Ulman does, she said.
Representatives of Professional Fire Fighters of Maryland, the organization that oversees all the local fire fighters union groups in the state, attended the fundraiser, complimenting Ulman on his commitment to public safety.
Of all the county executives in the state, “he’s probably been the most supportive of his fire fighters … providing them the things they need to do the job,” said Jeffrey Buddle, of Montgomery County.
Buddle added: “He has always honored the collective bargaining agreements he’s made and signed with the firefighters. … That’s unique in the region over the last couple of years with the difficult economy.”
John Quirk, a Baltimore County fire fighter and secretary/treasurer of the Professional Fire Fighters of Maryland, was impressed with more than Ulman’s commitment to public safety.
“He’s the complete package,” Quirk said, citing education, the environment and public parks as other areas where he’s been impressed with Ulman’s leadership.
Many of the attendees at the fundraiser were drawn to Ocean City because of the MACo conference. But Ellicott City resident Neil Middleton, who owns property in Ocean City, was drawn because of Ulman.
“I try to go to all of Ken’s events,” said Middleton, who is the cousin of state Sen. Thomas Middleton, a Charles County Democrat.
Middleton said he’s been to about five of Ulman’s events in the past year. Comparing the Ocean City event to the others, he noted: “It’s a good beach casual crowd.”
But the crowd was not Ulman’s largest draw.
“We’ve been to some where there are 400 people,” said Middleton, who was with his daughter.
Middleton had a lot of positive things to say about Ulman, who he said he’s known for years.
“He’s a good listener and he’s firm in what he decides based on what he’s learned,” he said.
Asked what makes Ulman stand out from others interested in a gubernatorial run, Middleton said: “I think he brings a view to the state that is fresh and he understands business concerns so we can grow jobs in Maryland.”
Some Howard elected officials, all Democrats, also attended the event, including County Council member Jen Terrasa, of Columbia, council member Courtney Watson, of Ellicott City, Del. Guy Guzzone, of Columbia, and Dels. Steven DeBoy and James Malone, both of Halethorpe.