Losing in the polls and facing a barrage of television ads by his opponent, Newton I. Steers has turned for help to a familiar source: his broker.
On Monday Steers, the former congressman who wants nothing more than to regain the 8th District Maryland seat he lost in 1978 to Rep. Michael Barnes, reached into his vaunted "personal fortune," sold some stock and pulled out $90,000 for the crusade. Yesterday he lent his campaign coffers $20,000 more, bringing to nearly $300,000 the amount of loans the millionaire has made to himself. And it's all to counter $120,000 worth of airtime reserved by Barnes.
"We're trying to make sure we get equal time," said Steers' campaign chairman Howard Denis. "We don't want to be buried under an avalanche of agitprop for Barnes. All this is simply an attempt to create parity."
In Montgomery, where candidates for office feel the need to remind each other that the county's scrupulous voters "are not for sale," the loans are unprecedented only in their magnitude.Steers was accused of trying to "buy the primary" by fellow Republicans last spring after he had lent himself $80,000.Now the candidate has poured $182,000 into his campaign since Oct. 15, much to the dismay of the Democrats.
"We knew Mr. Steers' pockets we're deep but this is absolutely unprecedented and unparalleled in Montgomery County," huffed the Democratic Party chairman, Stan Gildenhorn. "Montgomery has a tradition of people power. It's clearly an attempt to purchase an election."
Barnes' campaign chairman Brian Barkley said in light of Barnes' own polls which spot the incumbent an 18-point lead, and a new poll by the Baltimore Sun which gives Barnes an 11-point margin, the loans "are the mark of a desperate man."
That, of course, is anything but a point of agreement.
Declaimes Denis, "To the contrary, it's a mark of confidence. We wouldn't throw good money after bad. We wouldn't make this kind of commitment if we didn't smell victory."
Steers' total campaign expense, including the cost of his primary race, is now approaching $500,000 -- more than both candidates spent in the 1978 contest. Barnes's campaign has raised $265,000 with labor groups contributing around $60,000.
And, Barkley says, "he doesn't have a stockbroker." While some have argued that Steer's independent wealth makes him less beholden to villiainous "special interests," Barkley likes to point out that Barnes was named on a list of "congressmen nobody owns."
Steers argues that he does not have the resources of the incumbent congressman such as franking privileges and paid staff, and had to go through an expensive primary fight.
But since the beginning of October Steers has also been spending around $60,000 a week on television ads to hammer home this race's leitmotif -- constituent service.
Barnes did not begin to saturate the metropolitian area with televised hymns to himself until last week, but he has taken up the task with the same zeal.
Although both candidates say they deplore having to pour money into a race for political office where ideology and issues are examined in minutest detail, their misgivings have apparently been discarded in their fervor for the seat.
"Newt has been prepared to go into the hole even more, especially because Barnes has been poormouthing it," Denis said. "We don't want to say we didn't do everything possible."