- The Washington Times - Monday, December 3, 2001

ANNAPOLIS When Republicans came knocking on U.S. Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s door asking him to run for governor next year, he told them to raise $2 million by the end of the year or forget it.
That would have been a laughable goal for Maryland Republicans as recently as six years ago. Republican candidates statewide routinely ran cash-starved campaigns, watching in frustration as contributors conservative business leaders among them donated millions of dollars to their Democratic opponents.
But Ellen Sauerbrey proved during the race for governor four years ago that the right Republican candidate with a good fund-raising effort could keep pace with Democrats. She raised more than $6 million for her campaign, outspending Gov. Parris N. Glendening in the process.
Two years ago, Maryland Republicans again topped the $6 million mark for George W. Bush's presidential campaign.
Party leaders attributed the successes in both cases to two factors: attractive candidates who had a chance to win and the fund-raising prowess of Richard Hug, retired chief executive officer of Environmental Elements, a Baltimore-based provider of air pollution control systems.
Mr. Hug has signed on to head Mr. Ehrlich's fund-raising campaign. He guarantees that if the Baltimore County Republican enters the race, he will have as much money as he needs to run a good campaign.
"There is no doubt in my mind that we can raise $6 million-plus during the campaign," Mr. Hug said. "The money is definitely there."
"Dick Hug is just an incredible fund-raiser. He understands the connections that you have to have to raise money," Carol Hirschburg, a key aide to Mrs. Sauerbrey, said during her campaigns for governor in 1994 and 1998.
"You don't just send out a fund-raising letter and get $4,000 contributions. You have to have peers asking peers," she said.
Mrs. Sauerbrey said she was able to raise so much money for her second race because people thought she had a good chance to win and because of "an aggressive team of people Dick helped me put together."
"We were able to surprise a lot of people with our success," she said.
A key question is whether Republican fund-raising successes in the previous two elections is a temporary departure from the norm, or a basic change in the relative abilities of the two parties to finance campaigns.
"This is not a two-election fluke. There is a lot of Republican money in Maryland," Mr. Hug said. "In the past, it really has never been tapped very well."
Mr. Erhlich will need a lot of money if he winds up running against Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the current favorite to win the Democratic nomination. Mrs. Townsend already has raised more than $4 million and has scheduled two major events this month, one at the McLean home of her mother, Ethel Kennedy, and another at PSINet Stadium in Baltimore.
Mrs. Townsend is a formidable fund-raiser, able to tap into traditional Democratic sources in Maryland as well as the Kennedy family's national network of contributors and fund-raisers.
Paul Schurick, Mr. Ehrlich's campaign spokesman, said Mr. Hug had set up a financial structure using many of the people who helped raise money for Mrs. Sauerbrey and Mr. Bush.
Mr. Hug, who raised money for charity for years before getting into the political arena to help with Mrs. Sauerbrey's campaign, said the key is to divide the state into regions and have team captains heading a pyramid-type structure.
"People tend to give to people who ask them if they have respect for that person and believe that it's for a reasonably good cause," Mr. Hug said.
The key to success for Mr. Ehrlich and future Republicans is whether the executives of the big companies will turn their money over to Republican candidates or continue to support Democrats, as they have so often in the past.
The Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2002 is Mr. Ehrlich's for the asking. Party leaders are urging him to run because they don't see anybody else who has a remote chance of beating Mrs. Townsend or any other major Democrat who might get into the race.
Early political polling has shown Mrs. Townsend with double-digit leads over Mr. Ehrlich, but Republicans say that is only because she is better known among voters.
Mr. Hug's job, if Mr. Ehrlich runs, will be to convince the big donors that he can be a winner, in the general election as well as the September Republican primary.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide