With less than a week to go until the primary election for state's attorney, incumbent Patricia C. Jessamy is emerging as a front-runner in the race -- at least as far as dollars are concerned.
Campaign finance reports show that Jessamy has received $85,239 in contributions, considerably more than challengers Anton J.S. Keating and Lisa Joi Stancil.
A longtime lawyer, Keating has raised $63,165, and Stancil, a city councilwoman, gathered $49,013. Both reported those amounts in their latest campaign finance reports, which were due to the state Board of Elections Supervisors last week.
Stancil and Keating have spent all of their money, the reports show, and are carrying negative cash balances. Stancil is $5,945 in the red, while Keating has $12,659 in outstanding bills and loans, reports show.
Jessamy, the only candidate with a positive financial balance, has $8,908 left in cash.
"We feel very good about the campaign," Jessamy said. "We're running strong."
The amount of money a candidate raises is often used to gauge the success of his or her campaign. Throughout the summer, Jessamy has been steadily raising more money than her challengers.
Keating said he has raised about $8,000 since filing his finance report last week. Both he and Stancil said their lack of money won't stop them from winning the election.
Some of Jessamy's money is going for radio ads that feature her explaining some of her achievements since she took office in 1995. She claims partial credit for a 31 percent reduction in city crime.
Neither of her challengers has aired radio ads.
"We don't have enough money for radio or TV," Keating said.
Voters will decide among the three Democratic candidates in the primary election Tuesday. There is no Republican opponent.
There has not been a challenger in an election for the office since 1982, when Kurt L. Schmoke beat incumbent William A. Swisher.
This year's campaign has been fiery, with candidates trading barbs. Last night, they went at it again during a debate sponsored by the Baltimore Women's Bar.
"We hear crime is going down but we don't feel it in our neighborhoods," Stancil said last night. "We have a huge crime problem in Baltimore City, and it's past time the state's attorney's office steps up to the plate and helps reduce crime."
Keating also took his shots at Jessamy, saying she has been too soft on her staff.
"Pat Jessamy is a nice woman. I believe she's too nice," Keating said. "I don't think she has fired any of her prosecutors. You know, people get old and lazy."
And Jessamy threw her own political jabs while defending her record.
"I am the best candidate for this job," she said. "I have cited initiative after initiative I've done for this office. My opponents have cited none."
A recent poll conducted by Annapolis-based Gonzales/Arscott Research & Communications shows that 29 percent of voters favor Jessamy. About 27 percent of those polled preferred Stancil, and 26 percent preferred Keating.
The poll has a margin of error of 5.5 percentage points, which means that no candidate appears to have a clear lead.
In recent weeks, Jessamy has raised $6,719, about $1,554 more than Keating raised for the same 2 1/2 -week period, and about $100 more than Stancil raised.
This is the first campaign finance report Stancil has filed since she announced her candidacy.
She missed the deadline for the first financial reporting period, saying the computer belonging to her treasurer and mother, Dorothy Williams, broke down. Stancil said her campaign finance information is kept on the computer.
Some of her contributors include Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, who gave her $1,000; developer Betty Jean Murphy, who gave her $200; a bail bond company that gave her $250; and the Baltimore City Fraternal Order of Police, which gave her $1,500.
Gary McLhinney, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3, has had an icy relationship with Jessamy for years. McLhinney said the contribution to Stancil's campaign doesn't mean the union is endorsing her.
"We're not against her," McLhinney said. "We're not against Anton, either. We're against Pat Jessamy."
McLhinney said he plans to meet with Keating today. The police union is also considering contributing to his campaign, McLhinney said.
Keating's major contributors are former Circuit Judge Peter Ward, who gave $1,000, and Harry Meyerhoff, who gave $4,000. Meyerhoff is Keating's former brother-in-law.
Keating, who lost a bid for the office in 1978, has been endorsed by the Hispanic Democratic Club and the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, a Baltimore-based civic group.
Notable contributors who gave between $100 and $250 to Jessamy include former state's attorneys Schmoke and Stuart O. Simms. Former city Housing Commissioner Daniel P. Henson III, and Juvenile Justice Secretary Bishop L. Robinson also donated money.
Other contributors include many of her employees and division heads at the state's attorney's office.