Fundraising season heats up

Mayor Brandon Scott and former Mayor Sheila Dixon held dual fundraisers Wednesday night.

Scott’s was held at the newly renovated CFG Arena Fearless Club, a 900-person space. The event was originally planned for Sept. 13, but postponed due to a scheduling conflict, according to a campaign spokesman.

A standard ticket cost $100, while higher-tier tickets cost $500, $1,000, $2,500 and $6,000. It was closed to press. Scott’s fundraiser is Colleen Martin-Lauer of Martin-Lauer Associates. The most recently available state campaign finance records, which are ten months old, show Scott with nearly $451,000 on hand.

Dixon held her event, branded as a campaign kickoff happy hour, at the Bayside Cantina in Canton.

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Tickets were priced at $35 for guests over 65 and under 25, and $50 for everyone else. Additional tickets were priced at $250, $500 and $1,000. Campaign finance records from January show that Dixon has just under $5,000 in her campaign account. A prominent city fundraising group created a super PAC this summer to support her candidacy; it has not filed any financial records.

Dixon’s campaign allowed me to enter the event, which featured line-dancing and a DJ’s declaration that Beyoncé's “Break My Soul” is the perfect Dixon theme song. “Fundraising has never been my strong suit,” she quipped at Wednesday’s event, where she kept remarks brief.

Her fundraiser is Rachael Rice of Rice Consulting, who also works for Councilman Mark Conway. The Democrat officially launched his 2024 reelection campaign on Monday night at a fundraiser that featured an introduction from Gov. Wes Moore.

Moore was Conway’s constituent and neighbor until he moved out of his home in Guilford and into the governor’s mansion. State Sen. Mary Washington introduced the governor, who in turn introduced Conway at North Baltimore’s Zen West restaurant. Former Mayor Sheila Dixon and Councilman Zeke Cohen, who are running for mayor and city council president, respectively, were also in attendance.

Tickets started at $100. Higher-tier tickets cost $500, $1,000, $2,500 and $6,000. Conway had about $49,000 on hand in January.

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Councilman Zeke Cohen held a fundraising event marketed toward educators on Tuesday. The Democrat, who represents South Baltimore’s 1st District, is running for city council president against incumbent Nick Mosby. At Angeli’s Pizza, he told a crowd of mostly teachers that he would push for universal pre-kindergarten and restorative practices and conflict resolution training in every school.

Tickets for educators were $30; other tiers of tickets were priced at $50, $100, $500 and $2,000.

As of January, Cohen had one of the council’s largest war chests on hand, totaling more than $360,000.

The only member of the council who has said he will not seek reelection is Kristerfer Burnett, who represents West Baltimore’s 8th council district. The progressive Democrat, who entered office in 2016, has long said he only planned to serve two terms on the council.

This year — considered an off-cycle year, even though deep-blue Baltimore’s primary elections in the spring are tantamount to the general election — the state board of elections required campaigns to file finance records only once, frustrating some members of the political scene, including me.

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The next round of state campaign finance records are due in January, and then again in early and late April. The primary election is May 14.

U.S. Senate race updates

As the race for an open seat in the U.S. Senate chugs along, new reports show a consistent financial picture for the leading Democratic contenders: David Trone has the most money on the strength of his personal contributions, while Angela Alsobrooks is getting the most in donations.

Alsobrooks, currently Prince George’s County executive, reported receiving about $1.52 million in contributions over the most recent three-month reporting period. So far this cycle, she’s taken in $3.24 million total in contributions. After expenses, she ended the latest quarter with about $2.1 million in the bank.

“I am honored and grateful for the overwhelming support of our campaign,” Alsobrooks said in a statement. “We will continue to push to grow this movement and take our message to every corner of our state, because I know that Marylanders want what I want for my own family; safe communities, access to quality education, jobs and economic opportunities.”

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Trone, currently a Congressman, is sitting on about $436,000 money in the bank. He reported accepting about $63,000 in campaign donations over the past three months, a small number that’s offset by the $9.725 million he loaned to his campaign earlier this year.

Trone is the founder of the retail chain Total Wine and More and has a history of pouring his personal wealth into his political campaigns. He was the first candidate to put up TV ads this spring, and he launched another round of advertising this week focused on criminal justice reforms he’s supported.

Montgomery County Councilman Will Jawando dropped out of the race on Friday after reporting having $322,000 cash on hand. He accepted about $225,000 worth of contributions over the past three months and had raised about $733,000 during this election cycle.

Juan Dominguez, a businessman from Anne Arundel County who officially entered the race this fall, has about $38,000 in the bank. His nearly $150,000 in contributions this quarter includes $125,000 that he gave to his own campaign, according to his report.

Other Democratic candidates include Marcellus Crews, Brian Frydenborg and Steven Seuferer. Republican candidates include Lorie Friend, Christopher Puleo, John Teichert and Robin Ficker, a perennial candidate and disbarred attorney who has largely self-funded his campaign and reported about $1,700 in his campaign account.

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Money, of course, is not the only way to win elections. But in a statewide race, a successful campaign will need money to reach voters through events, direct mail and advertising on radio, TV and the internet. The candidates are vying to succeed U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, a Democrat who announced in May that he wouldn’t run for re-election.

State’s high court rights a racist wrong

The Supreme Court of Maryland is set to hold a special session next week to posthumously admit a man to the bar whom a judge found fully qualified but denied entry solely because he was Black.

On Oct. 29, 1857, Edward Garrison Draper, a 1855 graduate of Dartmouth College who had studied the law under a Maryland attorney for more than two years, presented himself for examination before Baltimore Superior Court Judge Zacchaeus Collins Lee.

Lee, a first cousin of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and a slave owner, found that Draper was “most intelligent and well informed in his answers to the questions propounded by me” and “qualified in all respects to be admitted to the Bar in Maryland.”

That’s except for the fact that Draper was not white, which had been a requirement at the time under Maryland law. So Lee denied him admission to the bar.

In 2023, John Browning, a retired justice of the Texas Fifth Court of Appeals; Domonique Flowers, a staff attorney at the Maryland Pro Bono Resource Center; and José Anderson, a professor of law at the University of Baltimore School of Law, filed a petition to posthumously admit Draper to the bar at the invitation of the state’s highest court.

”The Supreme Court of Maryland thanks Justice Browning, Mr. Flowers, and Professor Anderson for bringing Mr. Draper’s story to our attention,” Maryland Chief Justice Matthew Matthew J. Fader said in a statement. “The Court looks forward to acting on their petition and further highlighting the legacy of Mr. Draper and others who were wrongly denied the ability to practice law.”

The special session is scheduled to take place on Thursday.

Stop trying to make Ferris wheel happen, Harborplace developer says

It’s time to give up on the idea of a year-round Ferris wheel at the Inner Harbor.

Harborplace developer P. David Bramble said Monday that there is no path forward for the idea, telling a crowd of several dozen attendees gathered at a lecture series hosted by the Greater Baltimore Committee that it’s a firm no from him.

“So that’s one thing where I’m putting my foot down,” he said to a round of laughter.

Bramble, managing partner at the Baltimore-based MCB Real Estate, which acquired the rights to the Harborplace project earlier this year after a lengthy court battle, said the firm is participating in a yearlong community engagement process for people to submit ideas and feedback about the site’s future. So far, he said, most people are in agreement that the site should have a mix of uses, that access to the water should be front and center, and that people want to see a local attraction, rather than a tourist destination.

The feedback — elicited from surveys, neighborhood canvassing, meet-and-greets and public forums — has given Bramble and his team plenty to work with, he said, and many ideas to balance.

“How do we engage folks and make them buy into what we’re trying to do, make sure we have the requisite support, especially on a large project like this, that really is a combination of a private development and a public-private partnership?” Bramble said. “If we build something that you don’t want to use, and you don’t come and buy things, it’s going to close.”

Monday’s Transportation and Economic Opportunity Summit also featured remarks from Gov. Wes Moore and Mayor Brandon Scott, as well as Downtown Partnership of Baltimore President Shelonda Stokes, MTA Maryland Administrator and CEO Holly Arnold, and Baltimore Orioles executive vice president and COO Greg Bader.

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