In the 1998 Calvert County sheriff election, Republican Vonzell R. Ward and Democrat Lawrence C. "Bootsie" Stinnett together spent a total of $23,642. Ward, the winner by a landslide, spent just over $3,000, much of it his own money.
This year, candidates John "Rodney" Bartlett (D) and Mike Evans (R) have campaign war chests that combined total $79,891. The winner will have spent at least nine times as much as Ward did in 1998.
Candidates for almost all Southern Maryland law enforcement offices have raised more money than their predecessors and are spending it more freely, according to the most recent campaign finance reports.
Though political campaigns have become more expensive across the nation, local political observers point to several factors for the increase here: a controversy-filled sheriff's race in Calvert, a grudge rematch in the Charles sheriff's race, a strong challenger for Charles County state's attorney and an open sheriff's post in St. Mary's.
"There's a lot more" money this year, said St. Mary's sheriff candidate Mickey M. Bailey (R), because of the opening. "There's an opportunity there, and I feel I can take advantage of that and hopefully use it to win."
Now, with only two days left before the election, most candidates have spent almost all their campaign funds and are gearing up last-minute appeals to get their message out.
Charles County State's Attorney Leonard C. Collins Jr. (D) and challenger W. Louis Hennessy together have raised more than $70,000 for one of the area's more competitive races.
As of Oct. 20, Collins already had spent $31,532, almost $1,000 more than he did in 1998. Meanwhile, Hennessy has raised more than $40,000 and spent at least $34,000, several thousand dollars more than the Republican challenger spent four years ago.
Hennessy's list of campaign donors reads like a who's who of former assistant U.S. attorneys, Washington defense attorneys and D.C. police officers -- all of them people he had worked with as a District detective and now as a private attorney. About 60 percent of Hennessy's donations are from outside Charles, and they include $100 from Plato Cacheris, who represented Monica Lewinsky.
"A candidate's sources of support reflect where his sympathies lie," Collins said.
Hennessy criticized Collins for not revealing all of his donors. Like many other candidates, Collins reports contributions made to buy tickets to be lumped together as one donation.
In Calvert, Bartlett has spent almost $35,000 and Evans has spent more than $27,000. Bartlett has committed $17,000 to advertisements, almost twice as much as Evans. The challenger said he thought he spent more than enough to have a shot at winning.
"I was told I needed about $20,000 to $25,000 to win this election. I've raised more than that, so I feel I've done everything I can," Evans said.
Evans's advertisements have stressed his county roots and featured him pictured with prominent Republicans such as gubernatorial candidate Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. or popular former deputy sheriff Patrick H. Nutter, who endorsed Evans last week. Bartlett's ads emphasize his endorsements from deputies, correctional officers and labor unions, and tout his leadership during times of crisis such as after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the anthrax scares and the recent sniper shootings.
"I have shown that I have the experience, knowledge and ability to run this organization," Bartlett said.
Charles County Sheriff Frederick E. Davis (R) and Democratic challenger Rex Coffey, in a rematch of their 1998 race, say they will have spent more money this campaign. By Oct. 20, Davis had spent almost $37,000 while Coffey spent $20,384, roughly equaling the totals they spent through November in 1998.
Since that election, Davis has raised $69,160, the most of any law enforcement candidate. Almost all of it came through the sale of tickets to fundraisers, one of which drew more than 600 people in mid-October; state records show Davis has received only $400 in non-ticket contributions.
This year, Coffey has raised $22,624, including at least $1,725 he gave his own campaign.
The money has fueled a negative campaign of dueling newspaper advertisements. Coffey took out two full pages in Friday's Maryland Independent, blasting Davis for increases in crime and calling him "out of touch."
Davis ads have said Coffey wants to cut programs for domestic violence and juvenile crime prevention, which Coffey denies. Davis also has sent mailings to all voters who participated in two of the last three elections.
Both Coffey and Davis say they are confident of victory.
"But I don't know," Davis said. "I haven't taken any polls and unless you've taken a poll you can't tell."
In St. Mary's, Sgt. David D. Zylak, a Democrat, has raised $35,073, about $1,000 more than the Democratic candidate in 1998 spent through November. His opponent, Bailey, has raised $29,012, almost twice as much as incumbent Sheriff Richard J. Voorhaar (R) spent to get reelected four years ago.
Zylak has been running radio and television advertisements, while Bailey is using his money for a direct mail effort.
In the state's attorney's race, incumbent Republican Richard D. Fritz's campaign war chest of $38,436 dwarfs that of his opponent. Alan Cecil has raised $2,850, barely breaking even on his fundraisers, which cost $2,505.