- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 1, 2005

Fundraising woes potentially drove Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley to announce his run for governor last week, a full year before the Democratic primary, political insiders say.

They also question the claim by Mr. O’Malley, a Democrat, that he collected $2 million at a June fundraiser at M&T; Bank Stadium in Baltimore.

The competition is tough among Democrats for statewide money, to be sure. Four Democrats are already vying to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, and Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan is expected to join Mr. O’Malley this month in the Democrats’ race for governor.

Mr. O’Malley is not getting money from one of the state’s wealthiest Democratic donors, Baltimore Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos. He was snubbed when Mr. Angelos hosted a posh party last week in a Camden Yards ballroom for Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican.

Stephen Kearney, an O’Malley campaign spokesman, disputes claims that the mayor announced his run early because he is having trouble raising money.

“That couldn’t be further from the truth,” he said. “The exact opposite is true. The mayor thought it was time for him to announce and to start talking directly to the people … about moving our state forward.”

He said Mr. O’Malley’s campaign finance reports in January will show he did indeed raise $2 million at the stadium event and that he has a larger war chest than Mr. Duncan.

Mr. O’Malley, 42, whom Time magazine this year named one of the nation’s five best big-city mayors, was leading Mr. Duncan in recent polls. However, polls by the Duncan campaign have shown he is closing the gap.

The primary contest between Mr. O’Malley and Mr. Duncan is expected to be one of the toughest in recent Maryland political history.

Several Democratic lawmakers discounted concerns about Mr. O’Malley’s ability to woo donors. Delegate Curtis S. Anderson, Baltimore City Democrat, said he attended Mr. O’Malley’s June fundraising event and saw “gobs of money people and lobbyists.”

“I can’t imagine [Mr. O’Malley] is having trouble raising money,” he said. “If he cannot raise money, none of us can.”

However, Annapolis lobbyist W. Minor Carter said every office seeker in Maryland is scrambling for cash because of the moratorium on fundraising during the legislative session and the new caps on individual donations.

“I don’t know how there is gong to be any money left for anybody,” he said. “Every legislator is having a fundraiser. Everyone is afraid of the limits. Everyone is going to be tapped out.”

Carol L. Hirschburg, a Republican political strategist, said she would not be surprised if Mr. O’Malley announced early because of trepidation among donors.

“People are much more willing to give to someone who is a declared candidate than to someone they think might not run,” she said. “It is possible he was running into that.”

Del. Salima S. Marriott agreed.

“I think he did the right thing,” said Mrs. Marriott, Baltimore City Democrat. “You cannot really raise money [without announcing]. Well, you can, but you should announce.”

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