Schmoke boosts funding by taking campaign on road CAMPAIGN 1995


An article yesterday on the city mayoral campaign gave incorrect dates for fund-raising trips by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke to Atlanta and New York. The correct dates were Aug. 22 and July 20, respectively. In addition, the article stated that Thomas C. Barry, who organized the New Yorker fund-raiser, is a vice president for T. Rowe Price. In fact, Mr. Barry once worked for Price but no longer does.

The Sun regrets the errors.

Wealthy out-of-state contributors have helped Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke spend twice as much money as challenger Mary Pat Clarke in next week's hotly contested Democratic mayoral primary, campaign finance records show.

In the past eight months, Mr. Schmoke has taken in more than $140,000 from as far away as Texas and California -- increasing his out-of-state contributions to about a quarter-million dollars over the past two years.

The net result: About 20 percent of the mayor's $1.3 million campaign fund came from outside Maryland. By taking his campaign on the road, he also has pulled in almost six times as much out-of-town money as Mrs. Clarke.

Most of his big backers are major corporations -- law firms, bond traders, construction companies -- that have either received city contracts or are seeking them. But the mayor also has traded on his reputation as a star in national Democratic circles in his recent appeals to well-heeled liberals from Atlanta, Philadelphia and New York.

Political analysts say the money could be as much a curse as a blessing to an incumbent mayor who has seen his overwhelming lead in the polls slip to six percentage points in recent weeks.

"The fact that he's had to rely so heavily on out-of-town money this late in the game is a sign of how much trouble he's in," said Larry Sabato, a professor of government at the University of Virginia and an expert on mid-Atlantic politics. "It's nice to have that national reputation, but the way to stay in office is by minding the store at home."

Baltimore's mayoral race is one of the most closely watched on the East Coast, Mr. Sabato said, not just because of Mr. Schmoke's high profile nationally, but also because Mrs. Clarke has been able to cut so deeply into his lead with half as much money and only $42,000 in outside contributions.

"It's not often that a white challenger comes on this strong against an incumbent black mayor in a majority black city, especially when you consider all the outside support he's gotten," he said.

Still, others are likely to see the mayor's national backing as a positive development -- a sign of his growing influence that can only help the city, and a welcome confirmation that major national firms are once again interested in doing business in Baltimore.

"If nothing else, all that outside interest shows that Baltimore at least still has an economic pulse," said Matthew Crenson, professor of political science at the Johns Hopkins University. "It's a branch office town that has had more than its share of bad luck in the last few years.

"But these big national corporations don't just make campaign contributions because it's a nice thing to do. They do it in anticipation of getting some contracts going. Whether you support the mayor or not, that has to be seen as a good thing."

Craig Kirby, spokesman for the Schmoke campaign, said the out-of-town support runs deeper than that.

"It takes a great figure to walk among kings and win their respect, and Mayor Schmoke has been doing that for years," he said, alluding to the mayor's rise from hometown lad to Ivy League scholar. "It bodes very well for us that people of that stature want to associate themselves with him and our city.

"It also shows you that people are as impressed with him in Dayton, Ohio, and Los Angeles as they are in the neighborhoods of Baltimore. Both socially and economically, he has put Baltimore on the map."

But not without some political risk.

Said Cheryl Benton, Mrs. Clarke's campaign manager: "His campaign wouldn't have survived this long without that out-of-state money. Our supporters can't afford to make those big contributions. But they can vote -- and his out-of-town friends can't."

On Aug. 21, after inviting a civic association from Pigtown to meet with him in the wake of a neighborhood woman's murder, the mayor failed to show up. He was busy raising funds in Atlanta, garnering $7,000 in contributions.

"Our people were furious," said Doc Godwin, president of the group. "He invited us to discuss our problems, then he was a no-show. We were livid."

And on Aug. 2 -- as the mayor was preparing to address well-to-do New Yorkers about Baltimore's record on education and race relations -- a crowd of Korean-Americans back home was protesting the acquittal of a black defendant by a mostly black jury in the slaying of a Korean-American college student.

By the end of that night, the mayor had pulled in $17,000 in checks for his campaign fund from his Manhattan hosts.

"He's a very thoughtful and analytical guy," said Thomas C. Barry, a T. Rowe Price vice president and a transplanted Baltimorean who organized the fund-raiser. "That's a breath of fresh air to a lot of people who are dissatisfied with politicians who seem to be all flash and little substance. I think when you hold him up against politicians nationally, he's a shining star."

Whether his absences will cost him votes remains to be seen, analysts say. Most agree that the majority of voters made up their minds long ago in an election that polls show is shaping up along racial lines.

"All that outside money can only harden voters in their position," Mr. Sabato said. "Clarke supporters will see it as further evidence of an aloof and distant mayor who's more interested in promoting his national image. Schmoke supporters will see it as a sign that he's a player on the national stage.

"Either way, I don't get the sense that there's too many people sitting on the fence in this one."

Nor is there much doubt that business wants to back a winner.

"It'll be interesting to see Mary Pat Clarke's next campaign finance report," Mr. Crenson said. "If she can continue to cut into the mayor's lead, there's no doubt that a lot of that corporate money will start to come her way."

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