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Challengers for bench set fund-raiser Event tomorrow is last before primary; CAMPAIGN 1996


The last major fund-raiser in the primary campaign for two seats on the county Circuit Court bench comes tomorrow, with a pair of contenders expecting to draw 250 contributors to a bull roast at the Turf Valley Country Club.

The $60-a-plate event is the second big fund-raiser by the Committee to Elect the Best, the political organization for attorney Jonathan Scott Smith and District Judge Lenore R. Gelfman, two challengers in the race.

"We said we were going to have one major fund-raiser, and this is going to be it," said Chevy Fleischman, the campaign spokeswoman. Former Baltimore Colts great Art Donovan will be master of ceremonies.

Mr. Smith and Judge Gelfman are challenging Judges Donna Hill Staton and Diane O. Leasure, who took their posts late last year after being appointed by Gov. Parris N. Glendening. A fifth candidate, attorney Jay Fred Cohen, also is running for a seat in the March 5 primary.

The Gelfman-Smith campaign raised $12,705 at a $35-a-person. campaign kickoff Dec. 13.

The Committee to Elect the Sitting Judges, the political organization for Judges Leasure and Hill Staton, raised $29,850 at a $100-a-plate affair Jan. 11.

The judicial race, the most expensive in county history, has generated more than $100,000 in donations and loans.

The sitting judges have raised $64,403, according to their campaign finance reports filed this week, and the Gelfman-Smith ticket has raised $43,887. Ms. Fleischman said the challengers expect to gain $15,000 more from the bull roast.

Mr. Cohen said he will spend $4,000 in the primary campaign and will not have a fund-raiser. He is holding a no-charge campaign kickoff at 6 p.m. tomorrow at the Coho Grill at the Hobbit's Glen Golf Course.

"If my friends ask people for money, that's fine. But I'm not going to ask anybody for money," Mr. Cohen said.

Neil E. Axel, honorary co-chairman of the Hill Staton-Leasure team, said the campaign is not planning any more major events.

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