County Executives Bolster War Chests
By Robert E. Pierre and Jackie Spinner
Campaign finance reports filed yesterday in Annapolis and at election offices across the state also showed that former governor William Donald Schaefer -- a Democratic candidate for state comptroller -- has yet to get his funding machine in gear. But a slate of state senators organized by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Prince George's) reported that it had collected $636,000 to fend off Republicans who are targeting nine Democratic Senate seats around the state.
It was in the county executive races across the Washington area that incumbents showed some of the strongest fund-raising success. Several officeholders benefited from little competition. Anne Arundel County Executive John G. Gary (R) has no primary challenger. Curry faces McRae in the primary but no Republican is seeking the office. And in Montgomery, Douglas M. Duncan (D) faces challengers in the primary and general elections who are largely political unknowns.
In the county executive's race in Howard County, where Charles I. Ecker (R) is stepping down because of term limits, fund-raising was more competitive. County Council member Dennis R. Schrader (R-Southeast County) has raised $161,501 so far and has $51,665 on hand. Council member Charles C. Feaga (R-West County), meanwhile, collected $102,335 and has a balance of $51,385. The winner will face Democrat James Robey, who raised $51,463 and has $15,617 in the bank, according to his finance report.
In Prince George's, one of the biggest surprises was McRae, a tax lawyer whom Curry has refused to acknowledge as a serious candidate. McRae reported that he has raised $16,442 and lent himself an additional $570,000. McRae has spent $70,000 and said his available cash makes him a viable contender.
"I do have money, and I won't hesitate to use it," McRae said.
Others were wary. "If he has that kind of money, why hasn't he spent it?" wondered Prince George's County Council member M.H. Jim Estepp (D-Upper Marlboro), who is unopposed. "We're three weeks from the election, and the real question still is, who is Randy McRae? Perhaps with $600,000, we'll find out."
McRae, 39, who lives in Mitchellville and has a law practice in the District, reported that he took out a $570,000 equity loan, which he said is a loan against an apartment complex he owns in Northeast Washington.
"So what?" said Glenda Wilson, Curry's chief of staff, when told how much McCrae had on hand. Wilson declined to comment further until she has seen the report.
Curry's campaign committee reported that it has raised more than $1 million and still has $353,166 on hand. Another committee organized by Curry, which includes other candidates, has nearly $300,000 in the bank.
In Anne Arundel, Gary has continued to amass campaign cash at a record clip and now stands as the most prodigious fund-raiser in the history of his county.
According to his finance reports, Gary has taken in more than $566,000 since he was elected four years ago, besting the previous high of $475,000 raised eight years ago by his predecessor, Robert R. Neall, who is now a state senator.
In the comptroller's race, Schaefer has raised $36,414. Campaign officials tapped another Schaefer fund-raising committee, with more than $40,000 in the bank, to get started. They said their fund-raising will officially kick into high gear later this month when the former governor will host a $150 per person event near Baltimore.
Reports were not available for the other candidates in the comptroller's race, including Democrat Joan Pratt of Baltimore and Republican Michael Steele, who has been endorsed by Republican gubernatorial frontrunner Ellen R. Sauerbrey. Most candidates got off to a late start after Louis L. Goldstein, the state tax collector for 40 years, died of a heart attack just before the filing deadline.
In state Senate races, Miller, a Democrat, reported that the slate he formed with the state's other Democratic senators has $433,000 in the bank. Miller said he established the fund to fend off the type of offensive that led to the loss of six Democratic seats in 1994.
"We lost six seats in 1994, and I vowed we would never take the elections for granted again," he said."
Staff writers Peter S. Goodman, Manuel Perez-Rivas and Scott Wilson contributed to this report.
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