Incumbent officials might be in trouble with voters this year, but people who give money to Howard County candidates don't seem to have absorbed that message, judging by campaign finance reports filed last week.
County Executive Ken Ulman, a Democrat running for a second term, collected seven times the amount Republican Trent Kittleman did since January, and Ulman has $713,424 on hand to Kittleman's $23,297, though she gamely insists the result in November will be "close."
"I know what wins, and it's votes," Kittleman said. "If Ken wins, I don't think it will be because of the money," she added, laughing as she mentioned a motorist who stopped to hand her a $40 check Tuesday morning as she waved at drivers from behind her campaign sign on Cedar Lane near Howard County General Hospital in Columbia.
"He's getting all the big money," she said, explaining that her donations come mainly from homeowners and ordinary residents, though she agreed, "I wish it were more."
According to the reports, about half of Ulman's collection since the last report in January came from 129 businesses, developers, lawyers, individuals and political action committees who each gave $1,000 or more, including $1,000 from the Baltimore Orioles. Ulman's using some of that money to pay a staff of four and rent and equip a large campaign headquarters in Columbia that many county Democrats are using to operate phone banks and coordinate their efforts.
By comparison, Kittleman received six donations of $1,000 or more. More important, according to Donald F. Norris, chairman of the department of public policy at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, is that unless Kittleman can sharply boost her funding, she won't be able to effectively advertise countywide.
"She can't do anything with $40,000. To try to run against him without any money is ludicrous," Norris said. In addition, the lack of big contributors from Howard's wealthy Republicans might be a telling measure of Ulman's popularity. "You would think as wealthy as Howard County is and as rich as Republicans in the western county are, they would fall all over her with money."
For his part, Ulman said his campaign strategy was determined two years ago, and he's sticking to that plan. He has another fundraiser scheduled for October.
"We really don't focus on anybody else," he said. "We laid out a plan early on. We're executing a plan to execute our vision," he said, refusing to comment on "tactical issues," such as whether he intends to spend all his money before Nov. 2.
State Sen. James N. Robey, a Democrat and former two-term county executive, said he's impressed with Ulman's ability to raise money.
"Ken's a very, very shrewd and savvy politician," Robey said. "Ken works very hard raising money," but more importantly, "I think it indicates a lot of big contributors are not excited about Trent's chances. He's [Ulman] done a great job."
Other incumbents reported healthy bank accounts, too.
Del. Elizabeth Bobo, a four-term incumbent Democrat who faces a primary challenge from John Bailey, reported $60,113 on hand compared to $338.62 for Bailey.
But after standing in Wednesday morning's rain for two hours waving at motorists on Broken Land Parkway near Hickory Ridge Road, Bailey said money doesn't tell the whole story.
"Having more money would be great," he said, agreeing that without it, he won't be able to do much last-minute advertising before the Sept. 14 primary. Despite that, he said he has already bought all the basic campaign materials he needs, and all the door-knocking and sign-waving and literature he has left at people's homes doesn't show up on a campaign finance report.
Alan Klein, a Bobo-backed Democrat challenging incumbent Mary Kay Sigaty for the Howard County Council, is also working at a financial disadvantage. Sigaty reported $29,528 on hand compared to $7,322 for Klein.
Two challengers, one Democrat and one Republican, didn't raise enough money ($1,000) to be required to file a report. Jim Adams is the Democrat opposing state Sen. Allan H. Kittleman, who had $17,351 on hand, and Brian Matulonis is vying for the GOP nomination for delegate in District 12a. Incumbent Del. James Malone had $74,185 and fellow Democrat Steven J. DeBoy Sr. had $31,169. Two other Republican would-be delegates are also low on funds: Albert Nalley had $1,597 and loaned his campaign $4,500, and David Augenbaugh reported $4,029 on hand.
The Senate majority leader, state Sen. Edward J. Kasemeyer, a Democrat, reported $76,969 on hand for his District 12 race against Republican Rick Martel, who had $5,171.
In legislative District 9a, Republicans are the incumbents. Del. Gail H. Bates said that although she has $33,378 on hand and gets extra support from working as a team with fellow Republicans Del. Warren E. Miller (who reported $36,401 on hand) and Allan Kittleman, valuable volunteer grass-roots efforts don't show up on finance reports.
"I don't think the effect of that money is going to be felt," Bates said of the Democrats. "From my experience door-knocking, the response is excellent."
Miller said challengers always have trouble raising money. "I think it's harder for a challenger to raise money. That's just the nature of the beast."
Democrats Jon Weinstein and Maryann Maher, who are trying to unseat Bates and Miller, reported having $12,012 and $32,421, respectively.
Robey, who represents District 13 covering the southeastern county, reported having $61,431 on hand compared to $18,079 for Kyle Lorton, and $25,591 for Jody Venkatesan, who loaned his effort $18,400. Both are Republicans trying for the chance to run against Robey. Lorton had three donations of $4,000 each, two from members of the wealthy Gould family, that boosted his total.
Robey and fellow Democrats Del. Frank Turner, Guy Guzzone and Shane Pendergrass also have a joint $60,000 Team 13 ticket in addition to their individual funds.
"I think I'm in pretty good shape," Turner said about the $27,018 he had on hand. "If I need more than that, I won't get re-elected anyway." Pendergrass reported having $79,500 on hand and Guzzone had $129,633.
That's compared to the four Republicans vying for three party nominations. Ed Priola reported having $10,159. He's loaned his campaign $8,688. Jeff Robinson had $5,575, and he owes himself $1,000, and Loretta Gaffney, a late entrant, reported $753 left to spend. J'Neanne Theus' had $2,023 on hand, she said.
Steele at fundraiser
National Republican party chairman and former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele is the featured guest at a private fundraiser for District 3 County Council candidate Dennis R. Schrader this Tuesday night at the home of J.P. Bolduc, a former CEO of W.R. Grace. Schrader, a former Ehrlich and Bush administration homeland security official, said Steele might be controversial for public comments he's made on a variety of issues, but "he's an old friend" who has also been very successful for the party, both in winning elections and in raising money.
Council member Jennifer Terrasa, a Democrat who now represents District 3, had no comment.