Bell reaches $1.1 million in donations; But two rivals narrow campaign fund lead in latest period; Looks 'pretty competitive'; As primary nears, Stokes has most cash available for race


City Council President Lawrence A. Bell III has raised $1.1 million for his mayoral bid but seems to have lost once-dominant fund-raising momentum in the campaign's final weeks, the latest campaign finance reports show.

Both of Bell's chief rivals in the race, City Councilman Martin O'Malley and former City Councilman Carl Stokes, raised more than Bell in the most recent three-week reporting period, the last before the Sept. 14 primary.

O'Malley, who entered the race June 22, raised $251,000 between Aug. 11 and Aug. 29. Stokes' campaign brought in $193,800 and Bell took in $146,555 for the same period.

The reports, required to have been postmarked by Friday to state elections officials, also show that Stokes heads into the week before the primary with the most money on hand -- cash necessary for buying radio and television advertisement time during the critical final weekend.

Nevertheless, political consultants say the race remains too close to call.

"It doesn't sound like anybody has an overwhelming advantage," said Carol Arscott, who has been tracking the race for Gonzales/Arscott Research and Communication Inc. of Annapolis. "It sounds like it's going to be pretty competitive."

Stokes, who has raised a total of $481,000, finished the reporting period with $140,857, followed by Bell with $116,323 and O'Malley with $68,000.

Since joining the race, O'Malley has raised $695,000. The defense attorney has spent most of the money, using $400,000 for a television and radio advertising blitz.

Bell's reports show that he has spent almost a third of his contributions -- $307,682 -- on salaries and compensation for campaign help.

That amount is almost three times more than Stokes has spent and more than eight times the $37,046 spent by O'Malley on such expenses.

Shortly after Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke announced his intent to step down, Stokes estimated that the winner of the first mayoral race without an incumbent in 28 years would need to raise $1 million to ensure victory.

Bell is the only one of the three to reach that mark before the primary, although candidates will continue raising money after the election. Other reports for the year are due Oct. 22 and Nov. 23.

Bell's report shows that his campaign benefits from contributors who have donated to more than one of the candidates. Among the Bell contributors who have donated to the O'Malley or Stokes campaign is the Maryland Realtors Political Action Committee, which contributed $4,500 to Bell during the last period.

Harvey Schulweis, a downtown hotel developer who contributed $12,000 to O'Malley, also contributed $4,000 to Bell through three companies this time. Schulweis is seeking city tax breaks to build a $124 million Westin Hotel at the former News American site at 300 E. Pratt St.

Bell, a 12-year council veteran, has picked up backing from city unions. Among labor groups donating $1,000 to Bell during the last fund-raising period were the Baltimore City Fraternal Order of Police, the City Union of Baltimore and the Laborers' District Council Political Action Committee.

As City Council president and the city's second-highest elected officer, Bell chairs the powerful city spending panel, the Board of Estimates. The status has allowed Bell to enjoy the power of an incumbent in attracting campaign contributions from contractors working with the city.

Among the most noted contributors during the latest report were P.& J./Phipps Construction Inc., which contributed $2,000, and Potts and Callahan Inc., which contributed $1,000. Bell cast the critical vote in spring that allowed Randy Phipps, a longtime supporter of Schmoke's, to open a rubble-crushing operation in Northeast Baltimore. Bell cast the vote after efforts to find an alternative site failed, he said. Phipps and his company have contributed a total of $6,000 to Bell.

Bell also picked up another contribution from Baltimore Orioles owner and attorney Peter G. Angelos. Angelos' company, PGA One Charles Center, added $2,000 to Bell's coffers in the latest reporting period, bringing the total from Angelos and related companies to $11,500. O'Malley has also received $7,000 from three firms related to Angelos, including John Frances Corp., Artemis Properties Inc. and PGA Rossville LLC.

Bell received a $3,500 contribution from William L. Mahoney, vice president of highway contracting company L.F. Mahoney Inc. The company received a $762,675 contract to repair the Quarantine Road sanitary landfill pond in 1995. The contract has sparked an FBI investigation into the city's Department of Public Works after allegations that the repairs were faulty.

Through two companies, William Mahoney and his father, L.F. Mahoney, have given $6,000 to the campaign of Bell, whose office oversaw the initial scrutiny of the matter. The company has denied any wrongdoing in the contract, and public works leaders say the landfill complaints were generated by disgruntled employees.

After serving 12 years, Schmoke will step down in December. Bell, O'Malley and Stokes are the best-known candidates in a list of 16 Democrats in the race. Six Republicans are vying to represent their party in the November general election.

Yesterday, candidates visited churches, with Bell and O'Malley speaking back-to-back before the Church of the Redeemed of the Lord on Old York Road.

Pub Date: 9/06/99

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