Rockville Mayor Steven Van Grack, embroiled in a bitter reelection campaign battle with challenger Douglas Duncan, is outpacing the fund-raising efforts of his opponent -- receiving nearly four times the money contributed to Duncan's campaign.
Van Grack, who when first elected mayor in 1985 changed the face of Rockville politics by raising an unprecedented $30,000 in a three-way race, already has raised $36,448 with more than three weeks to go before the Nov. 3 election. That figure includes $1,100 of Van Grack's own money.
Duncan, a City Council member who has earned the backing of four former mayors and other members of the city's political establishment, has raised $9,739.
Nowhere is the contrast in campaign styles more apparent than in the finance disclosure reports filed last Monday. Van Grack has a full-time paid campaign manager. Duncan does not. Van Grack has a campaign headquarters. Duncan does not. Van Grack has spent $4,438 on direct mailings to city residents. Duncan has spent nothing on direct mail.
In a city where elections have tended to be low-key and candidates emerged from party nominating conventions, Van Grack shocked many of those old-school politicians in the last election by running as an independent candidate and by introducing outside political consultants, slick mailings and a brash campaign style. Van Grack's political organization appears even more sophisticated this year, combining the political savvy he demonstrated two years ago with the power an incumbent brings to a candidacy.
Duncan charges that Van Grack's "professional campaign is an affront to the way we have tried to make Rockville politics work. I've got volunteers, a grass-roots campaign."
Van Grack counters that his "ability to raise more money" than Duncan "isn't bad. It is proof of my broad-based support and direct-mail is one way we use to get the word out about issues. The campaign should be about issues, not money."
Duncan, adopting a strategy used by David L. Scull against Sidney Kramer in last year's campaign for Montgomery County executive, is increasingly critical of Van Grack's fund raising and the contributions the mayor is receiving from developers. Duncan has charged that the money Van Grack has received from developers and those representing business interests in the area makes "him beholden to them. There is little doubt in my mind about that."
"The campaign is a classic battle between people and money. I have the people, and he's got the money."
Van Grack has received thousands of dollars from prominent developers, including Aldre Inc., Alan Kay and Nathan Landow, and high-powered law firms, such as Linowes and Blocher as well as Beckett, Cromwell & Meyers. Van Grack also received $650 from Aris Mardirossian and his string of 6-Twelve convenience stores in the northern section of the county.
Van Grack campaign manager Stuart Harvey estimated that about one-third of Van Grack's campaign contributions came from developer interests.
Among contributions from developers that Duncan has received is $1,250 from John T. Kenney and Kenney's development firm, Realty Capital Associates of McLean.
Under the city's new campaign reform law, an individual or business may not contribute more than $1,000 to a candidate. Van Grack, who in the last election accepted contributions to that limit, has put a $500 cap on individual donations.
A sharp contrast in the two candidates fund-raising strategies is apparent in the number of out-of-town contributions. Approximately 40 percent of Van Grack's nearly 340 contributors have mailing addresses outside Rockville. Most of those are from other areas in Montgomery County, but some come from as far as Miami and St. Paul, Minn. Of Duncan's estimated 220 contributors, 10.5 percent are from outside Rockville, including one from Rochester, N.Y.
Van Grack said, "My ability to draw from outside the city and from developers shows I have support from people who believe in Rockville and in my leadership."
In the council race, council member Stephen Abrams has raised $2,811; James Coyle, $1,600; former Rockville Mayor Viola Hovsepian, $2,748; Andrew Johnson, $2,861, including $1,300 of his own money; James Moone, $2,484, including $1,259 of his own money; Sima Osdoby, $3,445, including a $50 loan; and former county Recreation Department director and county executive candidate David Robbins, who raised $4,135, including a $25 loan.