Maryland State Senate President Steny Hoyer (D-Prince George's), who has said he needs $500,000 to compete for the Democratic nomination for governor, raised about one-fifth of that amount in ticket sales for a cocktail reception scheduled for last night in suburban Baltimore.
The $100 tickets for the event at Martin's West were pushed by a network of volunteer ticket-brokers throughout the state with the help of a phone bank that operated eight hours a day for two weeks out of Hoyer's Baltimore campaign office.
Fran Tracy, Hoyer's campaign coordinator, said more than 4,000 potential contributors were sent tickets and brochures outlining Hoyer's positions on several issues. These people were then called over the last two weeks by volunteers working at the phone bank.
"We were very pleased with the effort," said Tracy, whose candidate trails Acting Gov Blair Lee III and Baltimore County Executive Ted Ventoulis in the early recognition polls. "The objective was to show that Steny could raise money and that he had support in the Baltimore area."
Hoyer, 38, has concentrated much of his campaign effort in Baltimore, where Democratic primaries are thought to be decided. His competitors for support and money in the city include Attorney General Francis Burch and City Council President Walter Orlinksy along with Lee and Venetoulis. Former state transportation chief Harry Hughes is also seeking the Democratic nomination.
Tracy said about 1,000 tickets were sold for the fund-raiser at $100 each. About half the contributors, she said, came from Baltimore, with the usual assortment of State House politicians and lobbyists -- most of whom are not committed to Hoyer -- also buying tickets.
Harry Kelley, the flamboyant mayor of Ocean City, led a busload of 38 Hoyer supporters from the Worcester County area on Maryland's Eastern Shore bound for the event. Kelley said he had received "feelers" from the Hoyer camp about running on Hoyer's ticket as a lieutenant governor candidate, but that he had not yet decided to support Hoyer.
"I haven't ruled myself out yet," said Kelley. "You know a lot of those television guys from Baltimore tell me that I could win. I have as much exposure as anyone else, if I had the money. I'd run, but all I've got is my ugly face."
Hoyer, whose face is not ugly, has been working the city clubs and back-roads of the state for nearly two years in his pursuit of the nomination. He has the full support of the Democratic organization in Prince George's, which is considered one of the most cohesive in the state. But his home county has traditionally had very low primary turnouts, sometimes dipping below 20 percent, and the Hoyer camp from the beginning has focused its attention on the northern part of the state.
Despite Hoyer's frenetic campaign schedule, there has been little evidence that his efforts to secure the nomination have stirred either the populace or the local politicians and kingmakers who still play a prominent role in Maryland politics. His aides believe that last night's fundraiser, which was delayed for more than a month for what they said were logistical reasons, will spark a second, more intensive, phase of the campaign.