Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake raised over $338,000 last year, according to her latest campaign finance records, underscoring her built-in lead for re-election next year.
The only local official with remotely the mayor’s fundraising prowess, City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young, reported $132,637 in new funds.
Because Young started off 2014 with substantially more money in the bank than the mayor, he remains the overall champ of campaign cash. As of last Wednesday, his political committee boasted $423,870 on hand, versus $365,344 for the mayor’s committee.
Both groups filed their annual finance reports yesterday, as required by the State Board of Elections.
Former Mayor Sheila Dixon reported zero contributions last year, making any political comeback, at least for higher elective office, appear unlikely at present.
Her campaign committee reported a balance of slightly under $80,000 – nearly all of it collected before she resigned from office in 2010 after being convicted on a corruption charge.
The two biggest expenditures Dixon reported last year were $2,460 for a storage locker and $2,000 transferred to Young’s campaign committee.
Other politicians floated as potential challengers to the mayor – notably City Councilman Carl Stokes and state Sen. Catherine E. Pugh who lost to Rawlings-Blake in 2011 – are far behind in the money-raising sweepstakes.
Stokes reported slightly over $30,000 in fresh funds last year and currently has $106,643 on hand. Pugh has a war chest of $114,225, including a $11,000 loan she made to her campaign committee last November.
Two others often cited as “wish list” candidates for mayor – best-selling author and TV show host Wes Moore and former U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume – have not taken any discernible steps to form a campaign committee or set up the apparatus for a political run.
Campaign contributions offer decisive clues as to the realpolitik of the upcoming mayoral race, whose Democratic primary is less than 15 months away on April 5, 2016.
(Yes, there is a general election – on November 8, 2016 – that will invariably attract Republican and other candidates. But no-non-Democrat has made any impact in local politics for decades. In the last 2011 election, Rawlings-Blake received seven times more votes than Republican challenger Alfred V. Griffin III.)
A career politician since she won a Council seat at age 25, Rawlings-Blake’s mastery of the money game gives her a huge advantage if she chooses to run for reelection.
Not infrequently, Rawlings-Blake has expressed a desire to remain mayor for many years, although she is coy about her specific intentions. Since gaining the city’s top office, she has stepped into the national political ring as a young (soon to turn 45) and promising female politician.
The mayor’s absences from Baltimore have accelerated since her appointment in 2013 as secretary of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and her parallel rise within the U.S. Conference of Mayors. This year she is in line to become president of the mayors conference.
(Today Rawlings-Blake is in Washington, D.C., attending the 83rd Conference of Mayors Winter Meeting.)
Nearly $100,000 to Martin-Lauer
In terms of fundraising, the mayor is joined at the hip to Colleen Martin-Lauer, who was the “rainmaker” for Martin O’Malley during his successful campaigns for Baltimore mayor and Maryland governor. (O’Malley’s 23 years in elective office ended yesterday with the inauguration of Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.)
Martin-Lauer Associates handles all of the mayor’s solicitations and fundraising events as a “consultant” (officially the mayor’s treasurer is United Way of Central Maryland executive Charles G. “Chuck” Tildon).
Martin-Lauer, who fundraises for many other Democratic officeholders, is paid a monthly retainer by the mayor’s political committee, “Stephanie Rawlings-Blake For Baltimore.”
Her company earned $93,020 in fees last year, according to The Brew’s review of campaign reports.
The Jack Young Factor
Based on cash in hand, Jack Young is the mayor’s only potential competitor.
Like Rawlings-Blake, Young advanced to his present office following the resignation of Dixon. After 15 years representing East Baltimore on the City Council, he became its president in 2010 when Rawlings-Blake vacated that position to become mayor.
PREVIOUS STORIES from our “MONEY AND POLITICS IN BALTIMORE” series:
• Beatty lavished funds on mayor and City Council as they lavished tax credits on Harbor Point (3/18/14)
• Councilmen say why they accepted donations from developer Beatty (3/24/14)
• Cole brings home the bucks (3/26/14)
• A silent Councilman speaks volumes in his campaign report (4/3/14)
• Council members raised more than $300,000 in 2013 (4/14/14)
• Jack Young has City Hall’s biggest war chest, most of it from people who don’t live here (4/17/14)
• A mayor who literally spends her political capital (4/22/14)
In 2011, Young won the office, one of four in city government that involves a citywide race. Young has acknowledged harboring ambitions to become mayor, but has been mum on the matter over the last two years – even as he has assiduously raised campaign cash.
Since his scuffles with the mayor over the closing of recreation centers and the running of the Grand Prix, Young has backed the mayor in nearly all of her initiatives and rarely votes against her wishes as president and member of the Board of Estimates.
The two worked closely to secure City Council passage of $107 million in tax incentives for developer Michael Beatty’s Harbor Point – and each received Beatty’s financial blessing.
Last fall, Young pushed the Council to pass legislation banning plastic bags and requiring police body cameras over the objections of the mayor. When Rawlings-Blake vetoed the bills, Young did not attempt to override the veto.
Politically Inactive Pratt
An occasional critic of the mayor’s policies is Comptroller Joan M. Pratt. A member of the Board of Estimates, Pratt has clashed with Rawlings-Blake over the auditing of city agencies and modernizing the city’s antiquated phone system.
But Pratt appears little interested in taking on the mayor in the polling booth.
The veteran comptroller (she’s been in office since 1995) has $178,857 in cash, but has not set up any campaign apparatus for a future mayoral run and did not conduct any fundraisers last year.
The only contribution to her political committee, a check for $250, came from the American Minority Contractors and Business Association.
And the biggest political move by Pratt’s campaign committee last year was funneling $6,000 to support political consultant Julius Henson’s unsuccessful bid to unseat state Sen. Nathaniel McFadden in the 45th legislative district.