Gansler leads in money race

State Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler has taken a strong lead among prospective Democratic candidates for governor in 2014 in terms of money in the bank, but his lead narrows when his fundraising last year is compared with that of three possible rivals.

In a report filed Tuesday, the deadline for filing state campaign finance reports for activity during 2011, Gansler reports having almost $4.1 million on hand.

That puts him far ahead of three others who are widely expected to run in the Democratic primary to succeed Gov. Martin O'Malley, who is prevented by term limits from running again.

Howard County Executive Ken Ulman put on a strong showing for a potential candidate who does not hold statewide office, reporting $1.3 million on hand. He was trailed by Comptroller Peter Franchot, who has just over $1 million, and Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, who reported a cash balance of about $810,000.

Gansler, however, came into the 2014 election cycle nearly $3 million — the result of strong fundraising during his first term as attorney general and no opposition in his 2010 re-election campaign.

When the four candidates are compared on the basis of who raised how much during 2011 — the period covered by the reports — the results are much closer.

Gansler still leads, having raised more than $1.2 million. But Ulman also collected more than $1 million. Brown raised just over $900,000 during the cycle, while Franchot took in just over $625,000.

None of the four has declared his candidacy, but each has acknowledged an interest in running.

Whoever receives the Democratic nomination is expected to face Republican opposition but will enter the race as a strong favorite because of the Democrats' traditional domination of state politics. Only one Republican, Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., has been elected governor in the past 40 years, and he was defeated in his 2010 bid for re-election.

Among the Republicans considered potential contenders are Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold and Harford County Executive David R. Craig.

Gansler said he's pleased to see numbers that will help him keep his options open for 2014.

"People seem generally pleased with what we do in our office, and I think the campaign numbers reflect that," he said.

Ulman said he's encouraged by his campaign's performance.

"To know that people are investing in me and investing in my vision three years out from the next election when I'm term-limited [as county executive] is just very, very heartening," he said.

Colleen Martin-Lauer, the chief fundraiser for Brown, said the donations show strong support for the lieutenant governor.

"We think we have a good report," she said. "We're very happy with it."

Franchot's campaign committee released a statement saying that the $1 million-plus balance showed his support among taxpayers.

"Comptroller Franchot and his campaign team are very pleased that we have achieved our fundraising goal for the past year," the news release stated.

Leopold has about $426,000 in the bank — a carry-over from the last election cycle — but has raised less than $5,000 in the past year. He said he's keeping his options open, including the possibility of running for governor, and is confident "the resources would be there" if he decides to do so. But the term-limited executive sounded a note of caution.

"I always try to look at the options with the cold fish-eye of reality. You have to realize to run statewide as a Republican is a daunting task," he said.

Craig had receipts of about $156,000, with a cash balance of about $112,000.

Baltimore Sun reporter Nicole Fuller contributed to this article.

The Democratic money race

Potential candidate Cash on hand 2011 receipts*

Gansler $4,066,960 $1,249,330

Ulman $1,301,393 $1,059,823

Franchot $1,013,656 $628,359

Brown $810,756 $919,929

*Jan. 13, 2011, to Jan. 11, 2012