In politics, it's good to have friends with money, as the latest round of political campaign finance reports shows is true for candidates of both parties.
Well-heeled politicians like Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, a Democrat, and former U.S. Senate candidate Michael S. Steele, now chairman of the Republican National Committee, are sharing their largess with those hopefuls who have less money. Ulman has been particularly generous with Democratic candidates in other counties, which suggests to some that if he wins his bid for re-election, he's paving the way for a run for higher office in 2014.
Ulman gave $6,000 to Kevin Kamenetz, the Democratic nominee for Baltimore County executive; $6,000 to the Maryland Democratic Senatorial Committee; $2,000 to Jim Mathias, a state Senate candidate on the Lower Eastern Shore; $2,000 to Ron Young, who is running for state Senate in Frederick County; and $1,000 to John Astle, an Anne Arundel County state senator. Another $4,000 from a slate committee including Ulman went to a Democratic committee for House of Delegates candidates.
"He wants to run for governor. I can't come to any other conclusion," said Republican Del. Warren E. Miller. Ulman would like to see Miller and fellow Del. Gail H. Bates replaced by Jon Weinstein and Maryann Maher, both Democratic candidates.
To help, Ulman also gave Weinstein's campaign $6,000. Democratic Del. Elizabeth Bobo gave $1,000 each to Weinstein, Maher and District 5 County Council candidate Zaneb Beams. Maher also got $1,500 from Del. Guy Guzzone, and gave her own campaign $6,000. Bobo, who was a strong backer of Alan Klein for County Council, gave his campaign $6,000 and put $20,000 more in their joint slate committee, although more than $12,000 in the account was not spent.
Ulman is hardly worried about money. His report showed him with $626,000 left for the last week of the campaign, compared with $5,019 for his Republican rival, Trent Kittleman, who also got $3,000 from Steele. Ulman shrugs off predictions about his future.
"I don't think people should read too much into it," he said. "Everyone thinks I've thought about more than I have."
Ulman says he's focused on re-election, and noted that he got financial help from established elected officials like Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. when Ulman ran four years ago. He said he's returning the favor while building alliances that could help Howard County.
"It's all speculation. He's trying to be helpful to the party," Ulman friend and ally Guzzone said. Having more friends can help during the General Assembly session, he said.
Del. Shane Pendergrass was less reluctant to speculate.
"I don't know what it means," she said about the gifts to other campaigns, "but I hope it means he's going to run for governor or something. That's my hope for Ken." She noted that if he's re-elected county executive, term limits would force him out of office in four years. "I'd hate to lose him," she said.
Locally, Ulman gave $4,500 to District 3 County Councilwoman Jen Terrasa, who is facing a strong challenge from a former councilman, Republican Dennis R. Schrader. Terrasa also got $6,000 from Councilman Calvin Ball's campaign and $2,000 from the Team 13 Slate, which includes all the Democrats who represent the southeastern county region. Beams also got $4,000 from Team 13.
Steele was generous, too, giving $4,000 to Republican candidate Robert L. Flanagan, who opposes County Councilwoman Courtney Watson in District 1; Steele gave $2,000 to Schrader and $2,000 to state Senate candidate Kyle Lorton, who is running against Democratic Sen. James N. Robey.
Republican Senate Minority Leader Allan H. Kittleman sent $7,150 of his campaign money to others, too, including $1,000 to Flanagan, $1,000 to Lorton and $1,000 to Rick Martel, who is opposing Senate Majority Leader Edward J. Kasemeyer, a Democrat.
Republican delegate candidates Joe Hooe and Al Nalley in District 12A got $4,000 each from the House Republican Victory Slate. They are trying to unseat Democrats Steven DeBoy and James Malone. Others without such benefactors lent their campaigns money. Ed Priola, a Republican running in District 13, gave himself $2,000, and Jeff Robinson, his ticket mate, lent his campaign $5,041 on top of the $1,000 loan he'd made earlier.
In contrast, Guzzone, Pendergrass and Del. Frank S. Turner, all District 13 incumbents, have $178,000 left to spend in their combined personal campaign accounts, compared with about $12,000 combined for Priola, Robinson and Loretta Gaffney, the third Republican candidate for delegate. That's not counting the $55,000 in the Democrats Team 13 account.
The Team 4 Slate that allied Ulman with Councilwoman Mary Kay Sigaty, a West Columbia Democrat, reported raising $49,550, mostly from big developers and business owners. Maple Lawn developer Stuart Greenebaum gave $2,500 and his Maple Lawn Business Park gave another $4,000. New City Alliance, a business group that favored the downtown Columbia redevelopment plan, contributed $4,000. Ulman did not give Sigaty money from his campaign account.
Political action committees gave $7,000 to the slate, including county firefighters and police unions, and a group representing Howard County home builders.
Alan Klein, who lost the September Democratic primary to Sigaty, said the contributions confirm his accusations that Sigaty is too close to developers. "People don't make contributions unless they think they're going to get something out of it," he said.
Sigaty, however, said she was flattered by the support from both individuals and businesses.
"Truly, I had support from a broad spectrum of people," she said. "To me it's very humbling to find out how many people appreciate the work I did." She led the County Council's efforts in crafting changes to the General Growth Properties rezoning plan adopted by the council in February.