Graham Tops Council Fund-Raising List
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, Aug. 18, 1998; Page B1
A first-time candidate for the D.C. Council has raised more money than any of the six incumbents who are seeking reelection in the Sept. 15 primary election.
Democrat Jim Graham has received $126,000, with more than $70,000 in cash available for the last four weeks, as he wages a fierce battle against Frank Smith Jr., who has represented Ward 1 for 15 years.
"I have always assumed that Frank Smith could raise a lot of money," said Graham, who is executive director of the Whitman-Walker Clinic, which serves HIV and AIDS patients. "What that told me was that I had to make an equal effort."
Smith, who faces three other challengers in addition to Graham, received a 10-day extension to file a campaign finance report that had been due Aug. 10. His initial report, filed in June, showed that he had raised $76,500.
Smith did not return repeated telephone calls to his campaign, his council office or his home to discuss the report he is expected to file this week.
As a result of changes in campaign finance law, this year council candidates can accept individual contributions 10 times larger than those permitted four years ago. The contribution cap on candidates for ward seats was increased from $50 to $500. Candidates for at-large seats can accept $1,000, up from $100. Candidates for council chairman can get $1,500 contributions.
Despite the changes allowing bigger donations, persuading voters to open their wallets to support a D.C. Council candidate has not been easy this time around, according to former council member Bill Lightfoot.
Since the 1994 campaign, the creation of the D.C. financial control board has diminished the role of the council in the District's government power structure. That reduced stature has been reflected in the unwillingness of voters to foot the bill for the election, he said.
"It's hard to raise money out here now," said Lightfoot, who is serving as treasurer for Phyllis J. Outlaw, a Democratic candidate for an at-large seat. "It's a reaction to the control board and diminished home rule.
"People give money to politicians for access to decision-makers, and the council members are not perceived as the decision-makers," he said. "People don't have any reason to give money."
Graham's contributions total more than any other current council candidate and ultimately could rival the $160,000 collected in 1992 by Jack Evans, who set a record for a ward council candidate in his successful bid for the Ward 2 seat.
Of the incumbents, Republican David A. Catania, an at-large council member since December's special election, has $100,000, followed by Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D) with $93,000. Sharon Ambrose (D-Ward 6) has collected $61,000, trailed by her colleagues Kathy Patterson (D-Ward 3) with $35,000 and Harry Thomas Sr. (D-Ward 5) with $25,000.
At-large council member Hilda H.M. Mason (Statehood) will not participate in the election process until the general election in November. Her report indicated no money raised.
Of the 24 council candidates whose reports were available, half of them lent money to their campaigns.
"There's so much attention to the mayor's race, that's where all the contributors are focusing," said Phil Mendelson, a Democratic candidate for an at-large seat. "There's been so little attention to council races, and as a result, that affects the level of contributions."
Mendelson, a former longtime council aide, lent his campaign $15,000 of the $41,000 in his coffers. He was one of a number of at-large council candidates who opted to dip into their own pockets to fund their campaigns.
Outlaw, who said she didn't start raising money until May, lent her campaign $13,000 of her $25,000 total.
"I would like to think I would not have had to do this had I been out there a year ago," she said. "Now that we're four weeks away from the election, I'm willing to invest in me."
Among other candidates, Bill Rice has lent himself $5,000 of his $25,000. Linda Moody gave her campaign $534 of $12,321; Sabrina Sojourner lent $1,200 of her $19,000. Mary C. Tucker has only $100, a loan to herself.
Not all of the at-large Democratic candidates, however, have dipped into their personal bank accounts. The Rev. William H. Bennett II has received $7,000 from contributors; Charles Gaither, $4,000; Greg Rhett, $2,025; and Kathryn A. Pearson-West, $1,700.
Todd Mosley, who joins Graham in the field of challengers for the Ward 1 seat, has lent $5,000 to a campaign war chest totaling $25,000. Another Ward 1 candidate, Baruti Jahi, reported raising $2,200, most of it in the form of a personal loan of $2,000.
Patterson, the Ward 3 incumbent, opened her wallet to the tune of $5,000 of her $35,000. Her sole opponent, Jim Montgomery, has $50.
In Ward 5, candidate Vincent Orange has $24,000, only about $1,000 less than Thomas, the incumbent. Of that amount, $16,000 was a loan from Orange. Ward 5 opponent William Boston raised $718 and is $613 in debt, while another Democrat, Pat Mitchell, raised $5,000, including a personal loan of $1,500. The Republican seeking Thomas's seat, Ian Alexander, reported raising $7,000 and lent his campaign $240.
In Ward 6, the $61,000 raised by incumbent Ambrose dwarfs the $10,500 raised by George A. Stallings Jr. and $2,000 received by Benjamin Bonham.
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