Ehrlich raises more than $725K for Md. governor’s race

The latest round of campaign finance reports aren’t due to the Board of Elections until late Friday night, but former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. is already touting his latest fundraising effort.

He raised $725,505 in the most recent reporting period, according to Ehrlich’s campaign. The reporting period covered Aug. 11 to Aug. 29.

The 18-day effort left Ehrlich, a Republican, with more than $2.5 million in the bank. Ehrlich had $2.1 million in the bank after the end of the last reporting period.

Gov. Martin O’Malley has not yet announced his totals. Spokesman Rick Abbruzzese the campaign would release the information later this week.

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Early support for alcohol tax hike

Health care advocates say they have 146 General Assembly candidates signed on to a proposal that would raise the state’s alcohol taxes by a dime a drink.

Their effort was unsuccessful during the 2010 legislative session, when lawmakers swore off tax and fee increases as economically and politically unpalatable.

But, the Maryland Citizens Health Initiative thinks 2011 will be their year. The next election will be four years off and the legislature will face another tough slog to find revenue to raise and costs to cut.

“I think the alcohol tax is going to happen,” said Vinny DeMarco, who heads the initiative and lobbied successfully for the cigarette tax increase in 2007. “The support in the legislature is reflective now of the support in the public.”

DeMarco’s plan would increase taxes on beer, wine and hard liquor the equivalent of a dime per drink to raise more than $200 million. The money would go toward developmental disability services, addiction treatment and prevention, mental health care and health insurance for childless adults — parents are covered under existing law.

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Ocean Downs, under the gun

The casino at Ocean Downs is four months away from its planned opening date and it looks like the construction crews may need every bit of it.

They were hard at it this morning — laying brick in the front, putting large steel beams in place on the roof and doing other work inside the structure.

I took a spin out to the track Thursday morning to check in on the progress being made there. At first glance (especially for an untrained eye like mine) it’s hard to believe that what is going on there is a renovation, rather than construction from the ground up.

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O’Malley narrowly outraises Ehrlich in Md. governor’s race

Fundraising totals for the Maryland governor’s race are out, and Gov. Martin O’Malley holds a 3 to 1 advantage in money in the bank over his likely Republican challenger, former Gov. Bob Ehrlich.

Ehrlich, who was beaten by O’Malley in 2006, had raised $3.2 million this year through Aug. 10, according to his campaign’s website. O’Malley, who enjoys the advantages of incumbency but could not raise money during the legislative session, raised $3.3 million, according to figures released earlier this week by his camp.

But that’s just half the story. Why raise the money if you’re not going to dish it out, right?

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Ehrlich, O’Malley debate the debates

The question of when, where and how the former guv and current guv will meet before Election Day took center stage and temporarily, but not totally, took over the governor’s race on Thursday.

Former Gov. Bob Ehrlich wants five debates with current Gov. Martin O’Malley, Ehrlich’s campaign announced Thursday morning.

“We look forward to a healthy and civil exchange of ideas and hope to reach an agreement with you so the sponsoring groups can begin preparations,” Ehrlich communications director Henry Fawell wrote in a letter to O’Malley campaign manager Tom Russell.

The letter, of course, contained a jab or two, which wasn’t surprising given the months-long sparring match the candidates have engaged in over the state of the economy.  One sentence began: “With 211,000 Marylanders currently unable to find work, Marylanders deserve a thorough exchange of ideas…”

The O’Malley camp responded with an eye toward the Sept. 14 primary, where Ehrlich’s ticket faces a challenge from former Constellation Energy portfolio manager Brian Murphy.

“We will be happy to debate whoever is the Republican nominee after the primary,” Russell wrote.

(O’Malley, too, faces a contested primary, but most view his and Ehrlich’s primary contests as formalities, even with Murphy recently winning an endorsement from Sarah Palin.)

Ehrlich’s proposed debates break down like this:

  • WMAR-TV “Square Off” with Richard Sher as moderator; 60-minute debate with no timed responses.  Taped for live on Sept. 16 in the afternoon with no audience.
  • WJLA-TV/NewsChannel 8 in association with the Howard County Chamber of Commerce; 60 minutes with no timed responses; Bruce DePuyt as moderator.
  • Radio debate hosted by the Baltimore Jewish Council.  Broadcaster, length, moderator and rules to be determined.
  • WOLB Radio hosts a 60-minute debate, moderated by Senator Larry Young. No timed responses.
  • WTOP Radio debate with host to be determined; Oct. 29 at 10 a.m.; 60 minutes with no timed responses.

O’Malley’s response says the campaign has “agreed to participate in debates hosted by the Washington Post, the Baltimore Jewish Council, WJZ-TV, WMAR-TV, WTOP Radio and others” and ups the ante with a proposed series of running mate debates.

“We look forward to meeting with the Ehrlich campaign should he win the Republican primary to work out the details of these debates; and a round of debates and appearances with Lt. Governor (Anthony) Brown and Mary Kane,” the response said.

Ehrlich, O’Malley make last minute fundraising push

We’ll get our first real peek into the fundraising and spending numbers of Maryland’s candidates for office next week, which means they’re making their final pushes for campaign contributions today.

The reporting deadline is 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, but the reporting period ends today. It will be the first finance reports the candidates have filed since January.

At the top of the presumptive tickets, Gov. Martin O’Malley has been making a push to hit $100,000 in online contributions in the last week of the reporting period. With 15 hours to go (as of about 9 a.m. Tuesday), O’Malley’s campaign blasted an e-mail out saying they had raised $83,981 online.

Update: O’Malley’s camp said at 1 p.m. it had hit $114,000 in online donations, and set a new goal of $150,000 by midnight.

Former Gov. Bob Ehrlich was also making a last-minute push. Ehrlich set a fundraising goal of $3 million for the reporting period. His campaign estimates O’Malley will have raised $5 million.

That would give the incumbent a big leg up — O’Malley had $5.7 in the bank in January, to Ehrlich’s $151,000.

O’Malley has been spending like he has plenty of cash, churning out TV and radio spots while Ehrlich has yet to make such a big push there. John Wagner, of the The Washington Post, has more on Ehrlich-O’Malley money race on the Maryland Politics blog.

The ups and downs of stimulus accounting

From May to August, it appears Maryland lost about $100 million, give or take, in stimulus funds.

Earlier this year, the state officials said Maryland was due $4.3 billion of the $787 billion stimulus spending package. But, when the state released its second quarter spending statistics, the award total was an estimated $4.2 billion.

So what gives?

That total allocation is “a moving target,” said Beth Blauer, who runs the governor’s StateStat office and oversees stimulus spending in the state. Wrapped into that big number — $4.3 billion or $4.2 billion, depending when you ask — are dozens of different types of funding and thousands of projects.

There’s money for home weatherization, road paving, teacher salaries, prison guards, water treatment plants and affordable housing projects, to name a few. Also included are federal matching dollars and extended funding for entitlement programs.

As the quarterly reimbursements come in for things like unemployment insurance and Medicaid — at more than $210 million in April, May and June, Medicaid was the largest single target of stimulus funding — the calculators whir in Annapolis and in D.C. and that bottom line “goes back and forth a little bit based on the entitlement dollars,” Blauer said.

So the $100 million drop from Q1 to Q2 means Marylanders needed less government assistance from the stimulus programs intended to help the needy and sick.

Not a bad way to lose $100 million, eh?

Update 4:13 p.m.:

The good people at StateStat have filled me in on the final numbers for the second quarter (which still includes a bit of guesswork on the future funding of entitlement programs) and the state’s allocation now sits at $4.36 billion.

So much for losing $100 million. In fact, by my count, we’re up. Just goes to show how much of a moving target those numbers are.

Palin endorses …

… Brian Murphy.

Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor, announced her support of Murphy in his gubernatorial campaign on her Facebook page Wednesday morning. The 33-year-old Murphy will face former Gov. Bob Ehrlich in the Republican primary.

Murphy faces the longest of long odds in his bid to upset Ehrlich, and has placed himself to the right of his Republican foe and Gov. Martin O’Malley, staking solid conservative positions on many hot-button issues.

Murphy is a former portfolio manager for Constellation and head of Smith Island Baking Co., which makes Smith Island cakes, the official state dessert.

Palin’s endorsement should help cement his conservative credentials.

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Money talks; Obama and Palin not so much

With all the competing messages and endorsements zipping from candidates to voters this fall, there’s one thing that cuts through all the noise: the bacon. As in, bringin’ it home.

A Pew Research/National Journal poll released Monday found that 53 percent of Americans said they were more likely to vote for a congressional candidate who had a record of directing spending to their districts. And only 12 percent said they would be less likely to vote for a congressional candidate that didn’t secure earmarked funds for his or her district.

(A tip of the cap to the PostPartisan blog, which brought the poll to my attention.)

(And a semi-tangential aside: Barack Obama topped John McCain and his campaign against congressional pork projects 53-46 in 2008. Coincidence? Probably.)

The Pew poll showed voters with more tepid responses to candidates backed by Obama, former McCain running mate and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, those affiliated with the Tea Party and independents.

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O’Malley gets his game on

So there’s nothing on your calendar for the third Tuesday in September?

Don’t fret. Gov. Martin O’Malley has an answer.

The guv signed a proclamation last week designating Sept. 21 “Civilization V Day.”

Yep, I know what you’re thinking — some combination of “What’s Civilization V?” and “Hey! That was supposed to be Eye on Annapolis Day!”

Civilization V is a turn-based strategy computer game due to drop in North America on Sept. 21. The developer, Sid Meier, has worked from studios in Maryland for nearly a decade and a half. Firaxis, the company behind Civilization V, is based in Sparks.

In the proclamation, O’Malley calls Meier a “pioneer” and “a longtime and celebrated Marylander who has spent his full professional life in this state.”

In a quick e-mailed response to a reporter seeking confirmation O’Malley had issued such a proclamation, spokesman Shaun Adamec said the governor “appreciates all hobbies.” (O’Malley is known more for the time he spends in the gym than time he spends in front of a computer screen.)

Perhaps in this election season, O’Malley is seeking to identify with a segment of the population who might shy away from Bob Ehrlich, the presumptive Republican challenger who in addition to being a former governor, once captained and played linebacker for the Princeton football team.