The top attorney for the state Republican Party has taken the first step toward a run for Anne Arundel County executive, announcing yesterday that he intends to raise $1.5 million - twice as much money as any previous candidate.
"Those are the type numbers you're going to see in the future, whether it's from me or from other candidates," Dirk Haire said after announcing his likely candidacy. "It's the price you pay in order to play."
The Annapolis attorney's announcement makes him at least the seventh possible candidate for an election that is nearly three years away. Term limits will force Democrat Janet S. Owens from the Arundel Center in 2006.
Haire, 36, said a committee overseen by Circuit Court Clerk Robert Duckworth will explore the merits of a Haire bid for the county's top job.
"If it turned out it wasn't in the cards, I would be surprised," Duckworth said.
Haire - a managing partner and commercial construction attorney for the Annapolis law firm of Haire Logan LLP - said the cost of building a new high school is a key issue in the race. He previously served on the Thirteenth High School Now committee, which has lobbied for a new high school in west Anne Arundel. He said yesterday that he would reform the county's procurement system to reduce contractor costs and build a new high school.
And, he added, "I will not raise taxes."
Haire moved to Anne Arundel in 1996 from Minnesota, living first in Crofton before moving to Annapolis in 2002. He has never held elective office, he said.
State Sen. Janet Greenip, a Haire supporter, said that holding elective office is not a prerequisite for someone such as Haire, who is involved in community activities and runs his own small law firm.
Haire serves on the board of directors for the county's Habitat for Humanity and the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Awards Committee.
Born in Indiana, he was a legislative aide to former U.S. Sen. Daniel R. Coats of that state. Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. recently appointed Haire to the Maryland Transportation Commission, and he now serves as the general counsel for the Maryland Republican Party.
If he meets his fund-raising goals, he would raise the price tag of Anne Arundel politics to nearly the level of Montgomery, Prince George's and Baltimore counties.
"He's the only one talking like that," said Dan Nataf, director of the Center for the Study of Local Issues at Anne Arundel Community College. "The question is: Will he set a precedent?"
Nataf said that announcing lofty fund-raising goals is a common tactic used to dissuade other candidates from entering a race. He said if he were a candidate, he would wait to see whether Haire could raise that much money.
For the 1998 race, Republican John G. Gary raised more than $700,000, he said. Leading up to the last election in 2002, Owens raised nearly $650,000.
"Surely there will be people with much greater name recognition," said Nataf, who has run for state office as a Democrat. "I don't know if all the money in the world can overcome that."
Haire said he expects the money to be used to buy advertising time on the network television stations in Washington and Baltimore.
That, Haire said, will allow him to deliver a message to the entire county - and region.
"Shoot for the moon, and maybe you'll hit close to it," said Erik Robey, vice president of the county Republican Central Committee. "$1.5 million is a lot of money, it really is."
Robey said the party will not endorse a candidate before the 2006 primaries.
Other likely Republican candidates are former Del. Phillip D. Bissett, who lost to Owens in 1998; Del. John R. Leopold; and Tom Angelis, a teacher and former county parks director who was beaten decisively in the 2002 primary.
Possible Democratic candidates are former Annapolis Mayor Dennis M. Callahan, the county's recreation and parks director; Sheriff George F. Johnson IV; and Councilwoman Barbara D. Samorajczyk.