Howard County Council Chairman Dennis R. Schrader raked in $15,000 in donations at a Columbia fund-raiser last night, padding his early lead in raising money for the Republican battle for county executive.
Schrader, who says he now has $75,000 in the bank for the race, raised more last night than his GOP rival, County Councilman Charles C. Feaga of West Friendship, has raised since he began his campaign in June.
Feaga, who has $10,000, predicts he will raise enough money to compete with Schrader.
However, with a year to go, differences are emerging between the two Republicans fighting over the first major primary election in Howard County GOP history.
Last night, Schrader's fund-raiser at Piccolo's restaurant in east Columbia looked like a Chamber of Commerce power lunch, thick with dark suits, hors d'oeuvres and small talk.
Several of Howard's GOP officials -- including County Executive Charles I. Ecker, state Sen. Martin G. Madden of Clarksville and State's Attorney Marna McLendon -- attended, though none has endorsed either candidate.
Schrader, 44, a native of Buffalo, N.Y., is vice president of the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore.
Since 1994, he has represented North Laurel and the southern edge of Columbia on the County Council. He lives in Columbia's Kings Contrivance village.
Last night, he moved easily through the crowd of more than 100, grabbing hands and nodding.
In a short speech, he promised to improve the county's business climate and schools.
Schrader also tested themes of generational change and executive credentials aimed directly at Feaga -- a 64-year-old farmer whose formal education ended with high school.
"I believe that the next executive will have to be technology literate," he said at one point.
At another: "Winds of change are in the air" and "I think that there's a new generation of leaders in Howard County."
Although he doesn't plan to announce his candidacy until next year, Schrader is far ahead in organizing his campaign.
He has had several fund-raisers, including the $100-a-ticket event last night and a July event in Glenelg that cost $100 for regular guests and $250 for those who attended a private reception.
Schrader has hired former Howard Republican Party chairwoman Carol Arscott of Mason-Dixon Campaign Polling & Strategy of Annapolis.
Also working for Schrader is veteran Republican fund-raiser Carol L. Hirschburg. Schrader has a finance committee that includes 20 volunteers.
By comparison, Feaga has done little since he announced his candidacy in June. That event netted some money, as did a $25-a-ticket picnic at the Howard County Fairgrounds 10 days ago.
His first big-ticket event is scheduled this month -- but the $100-apiece cost makes him uneasy.
"I've always stayed away from that," he said.
Feaga's treasurer, Republican County Councilman Darrel E. Drown of Ellicott City, argues that with Feaga's decades of friendships and party activism, he can run a campaign on far less than Schrader can.
Drown says Feaga "hates asking people for money," though he raised $68,722 for his last council race in 1994.
As a challenger for an empty seat, Schrader raised $34,625 that year.
For the 1998 primary and general election, Schrader's goal is to raise $300,000 -- an amount that would break records for campaign spending in Howard County.
Feaga hopes to raise half that, between $100,000 and $150,000, and intends to shun pollsters and paid political advice in favor of the kind of grass-roots campaign that has won him election to his west county district since 1986.
"We may not have a paid staff. I'm not sure it's necessary," said Feaga, adding, "I just feel like I know the county better than the pollsters."
Feaga, a lifelong county resident, might be right.
He is so beloved by GOP activists that several potential rivals decided to skip the race rather than run against him.
But some Feaga supporters have begun having nightmares about Schrader bankrolling a heavy diet of mailings and cable television ads.
Both methods have become increasingly important in Howard elections and threaten to overshadow the personal networks that once ruled county politics.
Many Howard Republican activists and officials are staying neutral for now, though some Schrader supporters predict that could change Nov. 10, when campaign finance disclosure reports will show the fund-raising discrepancy between the two candidates.
More clear is that Republicans face a primary election like none in their history. They rose to power in Howard on the strength of uncommon unity while Democrats bickered.
Last year's bitter judges' race -- though not officially a party fight -- pitted Howard Republicans against each other for the first time.
Party leaders split between supporting the two judges appointed by Gov. Parris N. Glendening and their rivals.
In support of the sitting judges were Schrader and the paid consultants Arscott and Hirschburg. On the other side were Feaga, Drown and others from the GOP's old guard.
Many Republicans fear next year will bring a destructive rerun of that fight.
"I think it could be a long, hot summer for us," said William A. Thies Jr., a county official and GOP activist.
Pub Date: 10/08/97