Sun colleague Justin Fenton reports:
With less than a month left before the Democratic primary, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has opened a commanding fundraising lead over her challengers, according to figures released by the campaigns in advance of the final reporting deadline Tuesday.
Rawlings-Blake had raised $800,000 since mid-January and $1.4 million overall this year, her campaign said, more than all her opponents combined. She has $676,000 in cash on hand — enough, her campaign said, to fund an aggressive television campaign in the race’s final weeks.
Her lead poses a challenge to her the rest of the field, which was already battling the perception that she has the race all but locked down.
Rawlings-Blake, who became mayor early last year following the resignation or Sheila Dixon, has also secured the endorsements of much of the city and state’s power establishment. But her campaign touted the breadth of her support.
“We’re really proud of the fact that we have had more than 1,000 individuals donors since the beginning of the year,” spokeswoman Keiana Page said. “I think it just goes to show that people aren’t necessarily in agreeance with some of the radical plans put out by our opponents.”
Her challengers have tried to use Rawlings-Blake’s fundraising prowess against her, saying it shows she is beholden to special interests and the political establishment.
State Sen. Catherine Pugh said she had raised $345,000 since she announced her candidacy for mayor in June. She had $250,000 in January. A campaign spokesman said he did not know how much cash she had on hand.
Former city planning director Otis Rolley reported raising about $267,000 since mid-January and $400,000 overall. He had less than $95,000 in cash.
Former City Councilman Joseph T. Landers raised $140,000 after he announced his candidacy in April, much of it in loans from himself and his campaign manager, according to a report filed with state board of elections. He had about $101,700 on hand.
With four candidates raking in at least $100,000, the combined take exceeded proceeds at the same point in the last mayoral race, when Dixon and Keiffer Mitchell were the only ones to hit six figures.
Rawlings-Blake has collected more than the $1.2 million that Dixon had raised at this point. Dixon went on to beat Mitchell in the 2007 Democratic primary by nearly 40 percentage points.
Donald F. Norris, chairman of the Department of Public Policy at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, said Rawlings-Blake’s challengers are carving up anti-incumbent contributions — and, ultimately, votes.
Johns Hopkins political scientist Lester Spence, said the challengers will have to “aggressively figure out other means to get the vote. That’s the power of incumbency.”
Rawlings-Blake’s campaign declined to release detailed information about contributions and expenditures, which were not due to the elections board until midnight. In a summary report, the campaign said she had raised $800,000, spent $971,000, and had $676,000 cash on hand. About $40,000 came from other politicians or political action committees.
Rolley’s campaign said his contributions came from more than 900 donors, nearly as many as Rawlings-Blake. They touted the $400,000 he had raised as an “unprecedented amount for a mayoral challenger who has never held political office.”
“Unlike my opponents, I don’t have contracts to give away, I don’t have powerful political patrons in Annapolis, and I don’t have a rich family legacy,” the candidate said in a news release. “All I have is my ideas, my record of accomplishment, my work ethic, and my integrity.”
And Bill Cosby, who Rolley said would return to the city next month to campaign for him.
Rolley received $1,000 from the campaign fund of Dixon, who is barred from running for office under terms of her plea agreement last year on corruption charges, but has been giving behind-the-scenes advice to several of Rawlings-Blake’s challengers. UPDATE: Rolley campaign manager Dan Fee says the candidate returned the money.
Dixon also contributed $1,000 to Joseph T. “Jody” Landers, the former head of the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors.
Other notable donors to Rolley’s campaign include the Fraternal Order of Police and its president, Robert F. Cherry, who each gave Rolley $3,000.
Local philanthropists Harvey and Phyllis Meyerhoff each gave $4,000; Former city health commissioner Peter Beilenson and former State’s Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy each gave $400.
Landers has given himself $10,000 and loaned himself another $35,000, according to his report. His campaign manager loaned $30,000. Landers also received contributions from various real estate political action committees and companies.
Jared DeMarinis, director of the campaign finance division of the elections board, State said challenger Wilton Wilson had filed an affidavit stating his campaign had neither raised nor spent more than $1000.
Clerk of Courts Frank M. Conaway Sr. said he has been raising funds but did not have figures available.
Fundraising for this year’s campaign got off to a quick start, with Rawlings-Blake raising $600,000 at a gala before the first reporting deadline, in January. Pugh and Rolley also brought in six-figure takes.
Spence, the Hopkins political scientist, said Rawlings-Blake “knew she had to hit it hard to be able to kind of sit down people who were even thinking about giving money or aggressively pushing another candidate.”
Her opponents have chastised her for not participating in more debates or candidate forums. She made her second debate appearance on Tuesday, on the radio show hosted by former state Sen. Larry Young.
Norris, of the University of Maryland Baltimore County, said Rawlings-Blake has run a solid campaign, but must keep it up if she wants to win next month.
“No matter what the poll numbers, no candidate, whether incumbent or challenger, can take their campaign for granted,” Norris said. “She’s got to raise money, and she’s got to campaign.
“From what I’ve seen, she’s running a really good campaign.”