In a possible setback for the Senate ambitions of Kweisi Mfume, campaign officials said yesterday the former congressman has raised far less than his opponents in recent months.
Mfume, the former president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, collected "just over" $100,000 in donations between Oct. 1 and the end of the year, an aide said, compared with $853,350 for Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, a Republican, and $778,537 for Democratic Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin.
The candidates are seeking to replace Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, who announced last spring that he would not seek re-election in 2006 - creating a rare opportunity in Maryland for an open Senate seat.
Mfume's campaign manager, Lindsay Lewis, noted that more than seven months remain before the Democratic primary election and said the campaign has nearly a dozen major fundraising events planned in the coming weeks.
"We are very confident that the congressman is going to have the funds he needs to compete," Lewis said. "We're on pace with what we need to win this campaign."
Others suggested that the campaign's low fundraising totals mean Mfume, who declared his candidacy last spring, must increase his efforts in the next few weeks if he expects to present a serious challenge to Cardin.
Of cash on hand - an indication of a campaign's strength - Lewis said Mfume has about $125,000, compared with about $787,000 for Steele and nearly $2.2 million for Cardin, according to the candidates' campaigns.
"Mfume's numbers don't look that good at the moment," said Donald F. Norris, a professor of public policy at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. "If he hasn't really improved by May or June, he's dead in the water financially."
A poll conducted by The Sun in November found Mfume and Cardin in a virtual dead heat, with more than a third of voters undecided in the Democratic Senate primary.
Senate candidates were required to file a campaign finance disclosure report yesterday with the Federal Election Commission showing how much they raised in the final three months of 2005.
Those reports are expected to show that forensic psychiatrist Lise Van Susteren had raised just over $117,000 and had about $155,000 on hand in her Democratic bid.
University professor Allan J. Lichtman, also a Democrat, had raised about $73,000, with $322,000 on hand.
Other Democratic candidates, including former Baltimore County Executive Dennis F. Rasmussen and Potomac businessman Joshua Rales, will not have to file a report until the end of the first quarter this year.