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Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is starting her mayoral campaign with a pretty penny in the bank-- she has $800,000 cash-in-hand, fundraiser Colleen Martin-Lauer told me last night.

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We'll get a better sense of how the other candidates stack up on Thursday when campaign finance reports are made public. Other potential challengers include State Sen. Catherine Pugh, Councilman Carl Stokes, Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors vice president Joseph T. "Jody" Landers, and Clerk of Court Frank Conaway.

Martin-Lauer, who also handles fundraising for Gov. Martin O'Malley, said $800,000 is a "pretty significant number to be at in January before the campaign really starts."

Rawlings-Blake was appointed mayor last February following the resignation of Sheila Dixon to settle criminal charges.

Although Rawlings-Blake was not elected mayor, she benefits from her incumbent status in drawing the donors with deep pockets. Her fundraiser last week boasted a host committee that included many of the city's top developers and business leaders.

Political observers say between $1 and $1.5 million is needed to win mayoral race in Baltimore. With $800,000 in hand in January, Rawlings-Blake could be well on her way to meeting her fundraising goals.

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