The next General Assembly election is nearly four years away, but it's never too soon to start raising money, right?

More than two dozen Maryland legislators have planned fund-raisers this summer.

There are golf outings, fancy breakfasts, bull roasts and cocktail parties. For a small number, the ticket price is as little as $15, but most are charging $100 or more for a ticket to their events.

"It takes a lot of money" to run for office, said Del. John F. Wood Jr. (D-St. Mary's), chairman of the Commerce and Governmental Matters Committee. "The cost is getting so great that it's hard to have one [event] and raise enough money" to run.

Wood estimated that he spent about $35,000 last year on his reelection campaign with most going to increased advertising costs. For the full 1998 election cycle, Wood reported that he spent just over $200,000.

He is already banking money for his next run and plans a fund-raiser Aug. 24 at Leonardtown's Brenton Bay Golf Course -- $125 a ticket for those who want to golf and $30 for those who want to eat at the bull roast.

Senate Minority Leader Martin G. Madden (R-Howard) held his annual golf outing May 17 and said that after six years, attendance slackened because there are so many other legislators holding golf fund-raisers this summer. He will hold another garden party fund-raiser -- complete with a Frank Sinatra imitator -- in the fall.

He holds the two events each year in preparation for the next campaign. "You try to raise a modest amount of money every year so you don't have to raise a lot in an election year," Madden said.

Comptroller William Donald Schaefer (D) has a June 8 fund-raiser in Baltimore: $250 a ticket.

And even Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D), who can't seek reelection, is continuing to raise funds. He will hold an event Thursday at Baltimore's Camden Club -- $1,000 a person or $4,000 for a VIP reception. The governor said he wants the money to maintain his influence in the Democratic Party.

"It is always, all the time, about money and influence," said Kathleen Skullney, who heads Common Cause Maryland. "It is by now a well-established routine that any elected official who intends to remain elected raises funds all the time.

"The same cancer that pervades and is destroying the system at the federal level is making its way into Maryland [and] is metastasizing."

Or maybe everybody really does like to golf that much.

Sauerbrey Backs Bush

Former GOP gubernatorial candidate Ellen R. Sauerbrey has signed on to be Maryland chairman of Texas Gov. George W. Bush's presidential campaign and said she isn't waiting for him to actually declare to start building a network of fund-raising and volunteers.

"It's not going to be a hard sell," she said.

Sauerbrey agreed to join the campaign after traveling to Texas last month to meet Bush.

"I came back pleased with what I heard and saw. Philosophically, I'm very comfortable with him, and I really liked him as a person," she said.

Four years ago, Sauerbrey chaired the state campaign of the unsuccessful presidential bid of Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Tex.). "I like Texans," she said.

Our Guard in Estonia

Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (D) is back on American terra firma after a five-day visit to Estonia, where she visited a series of military, academic and business partnerships between groups in Maryland and the former Soviet republic.

The trip was arranged by the Maryland National Guard, which has been overseeing those projects, according to Townsend's chief of staff, Alan H. Fleischmann.

She was joined by Dels. Virginia P. Clagett (D-Anne Arundel), David D. Rudolph (D-Cecil) and Thomas E. Hutchins (R-Charles), as well as several local officials from throughout the state, academic leaders and state economic development officials.

Fleischmann said the U.S. military provided transportation and paid for the rest of Townsend's trip, and several state colleges and agencies covered some of the cost for the rest of the delegation. He said the delegates and others on the trip paid some of their own expenses.

"The work of the Maryland National Guard in Estonia is extraordinary. From promoting private-sector partnerships and trade with the United States to promoting academic learning from [kindergarten] through higher education," Fleischmann said. "The delegation worked diligently to further those connections."

New Leaders at Chamber

The Maryland Chamber of Commerce has selected new leaders. Arthur D. Ebersberger, president of the Ebersberger Cos. insurance consulting firm in Severna Park, is the new chairman of the board.

Outgoing chamber chairman John M. Derrick Jr., chairman, president and chief executive of Potomac Electric Power Co., said Ebersberger brings a "unique perspective" to the job because he is a small-business owner.

Ebersberger will be joined by a new vice chairman, Jerome Evans, First National Bank vice chairman and chief financial officer.

The chamber is searching for a replacement for Champe McCulloch, who recently stepped down as president and had been running the chamber's day-to-day affairs and heading up its legislative efforts.

Regents Appointed

Retired Navy Adm. Charles R. Larson, former superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy, and David H. Nevins, a Hunt Valley marketing and public relations executive, have been appointed to the University System of Maryland Board of Regents by Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D).

Larson was head of a task force on higher education that resulted in management changes to the university system that are now underway. Nevins is also chairman of Maryland Public Television.

They replace Charles W. Cole and Earle Palmer Brown, whose terms on the board expire at the end of June.