Prince George's County Council Chairman Gerard T. McDonough already had hit up most of his moneyed friends for $50 and $100 contributions to his reelection campaign, but two weeks ago he headed back for more.
"They said, 'Oh no, not again!,' " said McDonough, a Democrat. "Or, 'What do you need it for?' And I explain that I have a primary fight now. . . . It's humiliating."
Candidates throughout suburban Maryland are singing the low-budget blues this year as a tight economy and changed political environments in both Prince George's and Montgomery counties compound the usual problems of fund raising for local offices.
According to preliminary reports filed last week, state legislative candidates have been lucky to edge their fund raising toward the $10,000 mark, although accounting is somewhat difficult because some state senators are slated with delegates.
Council candidates, particularly incumbents, generally have fared better, but there are wide disparities among them. McDonough, for example, has raised $39,390, the largest sum for an individual county council race in this area. He already has used most of the money to blanket his district with newsletters, filled with pictures of him climbing into fighter jets (he's an officer in the Marine reserves), gazing fondly at his children and having solemn conversations with police officers.
His opponent in the Democratic primary, school board member JoAnn Bell, was at the other extreme. She said she has raised $2,202, not enough to send out a mailing. Republican Wilbert Wilson, an aide to outgoing County Executive Lawrence J. Hogan, has raised $22,883 from two golf tournaments and fund raisers. He had literature printed to hand out on his door-knocking rounds, as well as matchbooks, bumper stickers and shopping bags.
Council races particularly show the effects of shifts and battles within local political organizations.
Four years ago, Montgomery council candidates were elected to a slate by precinct workers and other officials and ran together. This year, incumbent council members broke into two competing slates, and a group of Democrats angered by their squabbling formed a third slate.
One group, the so-called "United Democrats," was embraced by County Executive Charles W. Gilchrist but raised only $23,000. The anti-Gilchrist "Merit Team," headed by incumbents Esther Gelman and David Scull, raised more that $49,000. The figures do not include amounts raised by the individual candidates. The third slate has not raised any funds.
Traditionally slate-oriented Prince Georgians face almost the opposite situation.
Ten years ago, no fewer than five slates competed for five commissioners' seats, and the winning team went on to dominate elections after the council-county executive system was established in 1971. Council members were elected at large, and members of the dominant Democratic organization ran as a ticket. In 1978, the council candidates contributed only $4,500 each to a massive fund-raiser attended by hundreds of party workers and contributors, "to which," said one official, "all the press were invited to ooh and aah."
This year, however, all council members must run from individual districts because of a citizen-inspired charter change. Thus, all are campaigning independently, although some appear on literature distributed by state legislators. Most of these candidates are running their own campaigns for the first time and turning to the same people--zoning lawyers, builders, local business owners, friends and neighbors--for help.
"I'm getting more $10 contributions than last time," said incumbent Sue V. Mills, the only independent candidate to win a Prince George's council seat in 1978. "Last time I got more $25s. But I never got the big dollars before, and I didn't even seek them."
Neverthless, Mills, an Oxon Hill area Democrat with an antidevelopment reputation, has raised $22,465, only $1,000 less than her more prodevelopment opponent David Hartlove, also an incumbent Democrat. Although half of her 40-page contribution statement listed $10 and $25 contributions, the other half listed such contributors as developer Charles Shapiro ($500), the Kenneth H. Michael real estate company ($250), Walter Meinhardt of Brandywine auto parts ($200), developer A. A. Carozza ($250), Francis Chiaramonte, owner of Southern Maryland Hospital Center ($250), and the zoning law firm of Zanecki and Lally ($200).
Many of these people also gave to Hartlove, a former real estate agent, who has raised $23,415. Shapiro gave Hartlove $200; Brandywine Auto Parts, $200; and the Kenneth H. Michael Company Inc., $500.
Other high dollar fund-raisers in Prince George's include incumbent William Amonett of Brandywine, who raised $34,020, and New Carrollton area hopeful Thomas Hendershot, a lawyer, who raised $24,369. More typical were Hendershot opponents James Herl ($10,725), Charles Donnelly ($3,810) and Guy Tiberio ($2,075). Republican Joseph Drewer lagged with $135.