Owens raises $147,000 in campaign funds

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens, who has expressed interest in running for statewide office when her term expires in 2006, raised about $147,000 in the year ending Jan. 12, according to campaign finance reports filed last week.

Most of the money raised by Owens, a Millersville Democrat, came from ticketed events with supporters. She says she would consider running for comptroller if William Donald Schaefer doesn't seek another term or for lieutenant governor if she's asked by a gubernatorial candidate.

Owens could be a plausible statewide candidate, said Dan Nataf, director of the Center for the Study of Local Issues at Anne Arundel Community College.

"She would bring something special to the ticket and not just in terms of being a woman," Nataf said. "She's someone who's won twice in a battleground county."

Schaefer, a former governor and Baltimore mayor, has indicated he will seek re-election.

Owens, who is prohibited from seeking a third term, could not be reached for comment Friday.

Among possible candidates for county executive in 2006, Republican lawyer Dirk Haire and Democratic Sheriff George F. Johnson IV were the leading money-raisers for the same reporting period.

On the Republican side, other possible candidates include Del. John R. Leopold of Pasadena, state official and former Del. Phillip D. Bissett and Baltimore teacher Tom Angelis. Bissett and Angelis ran unsuccessfully for county executive in 2002.

Other Democrats who could run include county parks director and former Annapolis Mayor Dennis M. Callahan and two County Council members who can't run again under county term limits: Barbara D. Samorajczyk and Bill D. Burlison.

Haire, a counsel to the state GOP who shocked some county observers by saying early last year he planned to raise $1.5 million, generated $179,000 in his first year as a candidate. He said he plans to raise another $500,000 this year.

Nataf said he's not sure Haire or anyone else can raise $1.5 million for a county race but said he understands the attorney's motivation. "He thinks he needs quite a bit of money, because he's trying to define himself in the public mind," Nataf said of Haire, who has never run for public office.

Nataf said he wonders whether large fund-raising advantages will translate to votes. "It's a very hard electorate to buy," he said.

Leopold, who's entering his 19th session as a Maryland legislator, has a larger cash balance than Haire - about $348,000. But the majority of that comes from personal loans to his campaign. Leopold has raised about $67,000 over the last year.

Bissett, who lost to Owens by about 6,000 votes in 2002, has raised about $72,000. He has said that he will not be intimidated by Haire's fund-raising pace and believes he has more core support and name recognition than his competitors.

Angelis, who lost to Bissett in the 2002 Republican primary, said he has hardly raised any money but said the candidate with the most does not always win. His report was not available for review Friday.

Johnson's report was also unavailable for review, but he said he has raised about $200,000. Johnson campaigned throughout the year, saying a county executive race requires four years of fund raising and stumping.

Nataf said that's because Johnson has won several countywide elections and is raising money early, "you have to think of him as the frontrunner overall."

Samorajczyk, who maintains a base of support among slow-growth advocates, has not committed to a run for county executive and has said she wouldn't start campaigning in earnest until a year before the election. But she held a fund-raiser last summer and has accumulated about $11,000.

Burlison, who says he hasn't thought much about running, has not raised any money over the last year. Callahan hasn't committed to a run nor established a campaign committee for fund-raising purposes.

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