Cardin leads fund-raising race for Senate seat


WASHINGTON - Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin has raised more than $1 million since entering the race to replace retiring Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, his campaign announced yesterday - more than anyone else running or considering joining the campaign.

Cardin, a Democrat from the Baltimore area, had a fund-raiser scheduled for last night in Chevy Chase, so his totals for the second quarter of this year, which closed yesterday, were not final. But he pronounced himself humbled by the "incredible effort" made by people working on behalf of his campaign.

"We are feeling very good about it and believe we can raise the kind of money we need to run this campaign," said Cardin, who announced his candidacy in late April.

Kweisi Mfume, the only other formal candidate for the Democratic nomination, said his campaign had raised $150,000 during the three-month fund-raising period. Mfume, a former congressman and head of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, transferred money from an old campaign account shortly after he entered the race, giving him roughly $250,000.

Mfume said he wasn't surprised by Cardin's total but is unperturbed.

"My opponent has been in office for 20 years," Mfume said. "Having run every campaign against an opponent that outraises me in terms of dollars does not raise a daunting situation."

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, who is weighing a run, said yesterday that he has raised more than $700,000 since Sarbanes announced his retirement in early March. In the first three weeks after the announcement, Van Hollen reported raising a little more than $300,000. He said yesterday that he has more than $1 million in the bank.

Van Hollen, a Democrat from Montgomery County in his second term, said he likely would make a decision in the next few weeks - and certainly by the end of the month.

"We're in a very strong position to make a decision to run for the Senate, if that's what I decide to do," Van Hollen said. "We're right on target for where we want to be."

The most prominent Republican considering a run, Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, just formed an exploratory fund-raising committee and has not done any fund raising, said Dan Ronayne, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which is handling Steele's political activities.

While the 2006 election is still a long way off, early fund-raising returns are telling, said Donald F. Norris, a professor of policy analysis at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Cardin's big lead could encourage other donors to give to his campaign, Norris said.

"By the same token, if people are not doing well fund raising after they have announced, then they're not going to be taken very seriously - at least by fund-raisers," he said.

Mfume said that it was his goal to raise $1,000 a day for the campaign's first 100 days, and he thinks he met the objective.

"My only reaction is 'God bless him,"' Mfume said of Cardin. "We're not surprised. But it is a campaign that is not going to be bought but is going to be hard fought."

But Mfume has a problem, Norris said.

"If he is an announced candidate and has only raised $100,000, I think he's probably in trouble even though he may not realize it," Norris said. "Cardin has raised 10 times the amount that he has raised, and you can't run a Senate campaign on those kinds of dollars."

Cardin has also attracted several high-profile endorsements, including that of Rep. Steny H. Hoyer.

Meanwhile, Mfume - who declared himself a candidate only days after Sarbanes said he would not seek a sixth term - has to overcome allegations of missteps during his tenure in the top job at the NAACP. Mfume has admitted to a brief affair with a female staffer there but has denied playing favorites.

Van Hollen, who has been considering jumping into the race since Sarbanes' surprise announcement, said he didn't have a target figure in mind that would seal his decision and added that other candidates' fund raising is not part of his calculation. He has traveled all over the state since March, and said he has gotten a lot of encouragement.

"The main thing during this period is just to make sure that we're in a strong position, should I decide to run," he said.

As for Cardin, he plans to venture beyond Maryland next week, with fund-raising efforts in Michigan and Massachusetts. His campaign also announced two new additions: Wayne L. Rogers, a former chairman of the state Democratic Party who ran Sen. John Kerry's presidential campaign in Maryland, will serve as the head of Cardin's campaign finance committee. Ed Hale, the CEO of First Mariner Bank and the owner of the Baltimore Blast soccer team, will be the campaign's treasurer.

Cardin said he's pleased with the results of his grassroots efforts in Maryland and is looking forward to spreading his message outside the state.

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