Donald Norris, Public Policy, in the Baltimore Sun

Incumbent officials might be in trouble with voters this year, but people who give money to Howard County candidates don’t seem to have absorbed that message, judging by campaign finance reports filed last week. County Executive Ken Ulman, a Democrat running for a second term, collected seven times the amount Republican Trent Kittleman did since January, and Ulman has $713,424 on hand to Kittleman’s $23,297, though she gamely insists the result in November will be “close.”

“She can’t do anything with $40,000. To try to run against him without any money is ludicrous,” said Don Norris, chair and professor of public policy. In addition, the lack of big contributors from Howard’s wealthy Republicans might be a telling measure of Ulman’s popularity. “You would think as wealthy as Howard County is and as rich as Republicans in the western county are, they would fall all over her with money.”

The article, “Howard Incumbents Outdo Challengers in Campaign Funding,” ran August 22 in the Baltimore Sun.

Republican former Governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. collected twice as many campaign donations in the past eight months as Democratic Governor Martin O’Malley, but O’Malley has $4.5 million more in the bank for their expected rematch in November. Ehrlich didn’t appear to get nearly as much from big casino interests. Norris said the gambling interests were lining up behind the incumbent: “The gaming industry is betting heavily on the favorite, that would be my best guess.”

The article, “Ehrlich Attracts More Donors; O’Malley Collects More Cash, ” ran August 18 in the Baltimore Sun.

A recent article in the Baltimore Sun noted that some grass-roots leaders start out “bristling with energy and idealism, but many soon realize that politics can be a slog.” Night meetings and public hearings take their toll. And when citizens do battle against big-money interests, from developers to racetrack owners, they often find themselves outmatched and overworked. Recent battles in Maryland over slots, liquor laws and development have left their share of frustrated residents. Others become so empowered that they run for office themselves, occasionally forging long careers, like Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski.

Norris said citizen activists tend to have the odds stacked against them. “Sometimes the little guy can be a giant killer, but for the most part, our political system is tilted toward the giant,” said Norris. “The politicians, the big corporations, the unions — the giant has access to money. The individual doesn’t.”

The article, “Slot Foes, Other Advocates, Grow Weary of Politics,” ran August 23 in the Baltimore Sun.


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