- The Washington Times - Friday, September 7, 2001

Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley has raised almost three times as much money from companies doing business with the state government as any other politician, according to the latest reports filed with the state election board.
The first-term mayor drew $57,350 from companies holding state contracts from February through July, while the presumed front-runner in the race for governor — fellow Democrat Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend — ran second in contributions from state contractors with $19,650.
The disparity is underscored by the fact that Mrs. Townsend was given oversight of economic development in the state two years ago — a move that presumably put her expected run for governor in 2002 clearly in the sights of business leaders.
The contribution levels demonstrate enthusiasm for Mr. O'Malley and disenchantment with Mrs. Townsend in the business community, said Robert O.C. Worcester, president of Maryland Business for Responsive Government.
"There's a lively interest in finding someone other than Mrs. Townsend — someone with more genuine problem-solving experience," Mr. Worcester said.
A top aide to U.S. Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican weighing whether to give up his seat in Congress for a chance at becoming governor, agreed.
"This counts as further evidence there's a growing number of people uncomfortable with Mrs. Townsend's candidacy for governor," said Ehrlich aide Paul Schurick.
It is surely further evidence that Mr. O'Malley has become the politician to watch in Maryland, said Johns Hopkins University political science professor Matthew Crenson.
"They may be giving not because they think he's going to run, but because they want him to," Mr. Crenson said. "I think many want him to run … but signs point to his waiting."
Despite some complaints that campaign contributions from state contractors create a conflict of interest, the practice is permitted under Maryland election law.
Maryland candidates only have to file one November campaign report in the calendar year before a statewide election. So, in years such as 2001, the contribution reports that state contractors must file twice annually are the only new look the public gets at candidates' war chests from Novemeber to November.
As a state officeholder, Mrs. Townsend was prohibited from fund raising during almost half of the period because the General Assembly was in session.
And Mr. Crenson said Mrs. Townsend may feel "it's less politically acceptable" for her, as a state official, to take donations from state contractors.
Mrs. Townsend's campaign treasurer, Jeffrey Liss, said that her campaign does not look at contributions by sector.
"We are very grateful for the support the lieutenant governor has gotten from individuals, as well as the business community, who support her strong leadership," he said.
So far, Mr. O'Malley hasn't said what his next race will be, but his campaign staff said he added $800,000 to his war chest at a single event this spring.
A run for governor in 2002, if lost, could hurt his chances of being re-elected Baltimore's mayor in 2004.
Yet the mayor's record and the challenges he faces in a city dogged by poverty, crime and dwindling population suggest he could be tempted to bet it all, said political commentator Blair Lee IV.
"This may be Martin O'Malley's moment — he has rolled the dice before and won," Mr. Lee said, referring to the gamble Mr. O'Malley, who is white, took in running for mayor in 1999 when conventional wisdom held that the majority-black population of the city would ensure the election of a black mayor.
And Mr. O'Malley showed he was ready and able to go toe-to-toe with the lieutenant governor when he challenged her other major portfolio issue: crime fighting.
The mayor questioned the effectiveness of her signature HotSpots program and backed the city police commissioner when he decided to move officers out of that program so they would be available for other needs. She rallied HotSpots community supporters and some political allies, but the mayor won full state funding for the officers' salaries before agreeing to keep them in HotSpots.
Mrs. Townsend's last campaign filing showed more than $1.8 million on hand, with strong support from unions and sources outside the state, including the entertainment industry. Donations from a range of Maryland businesses also appeared.
Mr. O'Malley's November 2000 report showed less than $140,000 on hand.

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