- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele narrowly won the fundraising battle during the fourth quarter last year in the race for the U.S. Senate, his campaign said yesterday.

Mr. Steele, a Republican, raised roughly $50,000 more than the Democratic front-runner, U.S. Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, a 10-term congressman from Baltimore.

Mr. Steele’s campaign said he raised $853,350, compared with the nearly $800,000 Mr. Cardin’s campaign reported raising from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31.

Both candidates released unofficial numbers through their campaigns yesterday. Official numbers will be released after the Jan. 31 filing deadline with the Federal Election Commission.

Mr. Steele, who entered the race six months after Mr. Cardin, lags in total cash on hand.

Mr. Cardin has $2.1. million in cash on hand, compared with Mr. Steele’s $1.3 million.

The national Republican Party has shown interest in Mr. Steele’s campaign. President Bush helped Mr. Steele raise $500,000 at a November event.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) joined the Steele campaign yesterday in criticizing Mr. Cardin for receiving $3.9 million in special-interest money during the past 20 years.

“For a guy who hasn’t had a competitive campaign in 20 years, Cardin raises a staggering amount of special-interest money,” said Dan Ronayne, a spokesman for the NRSC.

Cardin campaign spokesman Oren Shur responded by saying, “The national Republicans will do anything they can to divert attention away from the fact that more than 4,000 individuals have contributed to Ben Cardin’s campaign because they want an effective leader with strong principles.”

Leonardo Alcivar, a spokesman for Mr. Steele, said the lieutenant governor had received donations from 5,330 persons.

He said that about 60 percent of Mr. Steele’s donations came from “the people of Maryland,” but that “with all the [political action committee] money Ben Cardin has taken … the only campaign that is bought and paid for by the political establishment is the congressman’s.”

Kweisi Mfume, former president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and a Democratic candidate for the Senate, has not released his fundraising numbers. Mr. Mfume’s spokesman declined to comment yesterday.

As of the end of the third quarter Sept. 30, Mr. Mfume had raised $319,050 and had $97,439 cash on hand.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., who released unofficial numbers for his re-election campaign, said he raised $4.9 million in the past year, which is $500,000 more than Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley, a Democratic challenger.

Official numbers for the governor’s race and all other state races will be available today.

Mr. Ehrlich has $8.4 million in cash on hand, compared with Mr. O’Malley’s $4.2 million. Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, another Democratic challenger, has $1.4 million.

State officials, including the governor, cannot raise funds during the 90-day General Assembly session. That restriction does not apply to Mr. O’Malley or to Mr. Duncan. The session began last week.

John Reith, Mr. Ehrlich’s campaign finance director, said he was “very happy” with the governor’s fundraising.

“It’s exactly where we anticipated being. Our plan is very detailed. We know exactly what we are doing,” he said.

Mr. Reith said he was most excited about the donations from 11,747 persons who had given to the governor for the first time and the number of small gifts, including 7,163 donations of $99 or less.

“We want to have a wide base. That’s what’s so big in fundraising,” Mr. Reith said.

Mr. O’Malley received 2,098 donations of $100 or less.

Jonathan Epstein, Mr. O’Malley’s campaign manager, said the announcement of Mr. Ehrlich’s campaign funds was “the shock of the day.”

“Everyone was talking about him having $10 [million] to $12 [million] on hand,” Mr. Epstein said. “We’re excited. … To be this close to Bob Ehrlich, where we have 90 days where he can’t raise any money, it’s an amazing feat.”

Mr. Ehrlich has raised $10.7 million in campaign funds toward his re-election campaign, which surpasses the $10.5 million he raised for his entire 2002 campaign.

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