D.C. council member Adrian M. Fenty collected more than $213,000 in the first two months of his campaign for mayor, leaping ahead of his declared rivals in fundraising for the 2006 campaign, according to reports filed yesterday with the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance.
Council member Vincent B. Orange Sr. (D-Ward 5), who became a mayoral candidate June 19, reported raising just over $126,000. The only other declared candidate, former telecommunications executive Marie C. Johns, who announced her candidacy just more than a week ago, said she has yet to start raising money and will not file a report until January.
The reports, which measure contributions through Sunday, offer a first glimpse into the intense competition for cash expected to mark the campaign. Political observers believe that Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) is leaning toward retirement, leaving the city's top political job up for grabs for the first time since 1998.
Although District voters often cast their ballots for underdogs, this year's mayoral candidates clearly regard the size of their bank accounts as an important indicator of popular support.
Fenty (D-Ward 4), for instance, highlighted the number of contributions to his campaign: More than 700 people have offered financial backing to Fenty, 41/2 times the approximately 150 contributors who wrote checks to Orange.
Fenty's donors include dozens of community activists, schoolteachers and retirees who contributed $200 or less, according to his report. There were also a number of big givers, such as labor unions, construction companies and local lawyers, many of whom wrote checks for $1,000 or more.
"To me, it is very important to not only maximize the amount of money you bring in, but to maximize the number of contributors. It's a show of strength," Fenty said. "Those are 700 people who thought enough about our campaign to have given money out of their own pocket."
Orange, meanwhile, said he is pleased with his showing. He compared Fenty to Democratic presidential contender Howard Dean, the early favorite in the 2004 campaign who fizzled and lost the nomination to U.S. Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.).
"I'm right where I want to be. You want to peak at the right point," Orange said. "Dean was way ahead and had all the money and blew up. Kerry was steady-as-you-go."
Orange said the early numbers indicate that the mayor's race is going to be very intense and "very expensive, especially if the seat is wide-open."
"There's a big pool of cash available for those who want to see the city do well and continue on the foundation that has been laid," Orange said. "My message is to build on this foundation."
In addition to the three declared candidates, lobbyist Michael A. Brown plans to enter the race next month. And Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D) said last week that she is "leaning strongly" toward a mayoral run. Cropp said she does not expect Williams to seek a third term. The mayor declined to comment but said he would make his plans known in September.
Some of the challengers have been raising money for months in the most public and extensive political exploratory effort in city history.
Yesterday, the dimensions of the exploratory process came into sharper focus as Fenty, Orange, Brown and a fourth candidate who has since dropped out of the mayor's race prepared reports showing that they had raised and spent nearly $800,000 in exploratory funds.
Fenty, who has previously released his exploratory donor list, led the pack with $312,000. Orange, who has also made his donors public, followed with about $175,000, he said. His report was not available late yesterday.
A. Scott Bolden, the former D.C. Democratic Party chairman who has decided to run for the at-large council seat held by Phil Mendelson (D), reported raising just over $160,000 in exploratory funds. Nearly $50,000 came from lawyers at Bolden's K Street law firm, Reed Smith, and an additional $16,000 came from Bolden himself, the report shows.
Brown had yet to file with campaign finance officials late yesterday. He supplied The Washington Post with what he said was a complete listing of exploratory donations, which totaled just over $151,000.
Brown's list included $25,000 from Black Entertainment Television founder Robert L. Johnson, as well as $38,000 from his own pocket. Another $10,000 came from AB Enterprises Inc., a firm owned by Robert Siegel, the gay-entertainment impresario who is suing the city over its plans to take his properties on O Street SE to make way for a baseball stadium.
The reports mark the first time potential candidates in the District have been asked to publicly detail their activities. For years, exploratory committees were permitted to raise unlimited sums from anonymous donors without filing public reports. That changed this year, when Orange sponsored emergency legislation requiring the committees to file reports with campaign finance officials.