WASHINGTON – Four of the Democrats competing for Kweisi Mfume’s vacant 7th District seat have spent more than $50,000 on their campaigns since Jan. 1, according to their most recent Federal Election Commission reports.
Much of the money raised by the four hopefuls was spent on media publicity and political strategists and pollsters, the reports showed.
Frank Reid III, 44, pastor of the 10,000-member Bethel A.M.E. Church in Baltimore, topped the spending list, with $138,365 through Feb. 14.
Elijah Cummings, 45, speaker pro tempore of the House of Delegates, spent $99,865.
A. Dwight Pettit, 45, a prominent civil rights attorney and radio call-in host, spent $62,895, while State Sen. Delores Kelley, 50, a speech communications professor at Morgan State University, spent $56,091.
The biggest chunk of Reid’s spending – nearly $23,000 – went to direct mailings to generate contributions, his report showed.
The Reid campaign spent comparatively little money on media advertising, with at least $9,991 used for publicity on the radio and in newspapers.
“We’re probably not on radar screens because we are trying to stay as grassroots as possible,” said Reid’s campaign manager, Regena Thomas.
Reid has hosted the Bethel A.M.E. Church’s weekly religious program on Baltimore television for seven years.
Reid’s campaign raised much of its $106,524 in individual contributions through phone calls and door-to-door canvassing, Thomas said. He had $8,659 in the bank Feb. 14.
A large portion of Cummings’ money – at least $24,000 – went to consultants and pollsters who helped him with campaign strategies.
“Our plan basically was: The candidate calls everyone on the planet and begs them for money,” joked Julius Henson, Cummings’ campaign manager. He said the campaign did not hold any major fund-raising events.
Advertising accounted for a smaller amount, with at least $6,500 spent on radio spots.
The campaign has only recently begun airing advertisements on television. “We’ve been up on broadcast TV since Thursday. We are told that the average viewer will see our ad about nine times before the election,” Henson said.
Cummings raised more than $220,000 from individual contributors and political action committees, the most of any candidate running in the district. He had $121,916 in the bank on Feb. 14 – by far the most of any of the 7th District candidates.
Almost a quarter of the $70,575 Kelley raised in the last filing period went to campaign consultants.
“We wanted to bring in people who knew how to manage a mid- year campaign,” said Kelley campaign manager Terry Taylor.
In the waning days before the primary, Taylor said the campaign will be airing about 80 radio and television spots. Her FEC report showed $15,000 spent on media.
She had $23,855 in the bank Feb. 14.
Pettit outspent all of his rivals in radio and television advertising. Over the last reporting period, he used at least $32,730 for spots that began appearing on local stations in late December. The media spending represented nearly half of the $79,130 he raised.
“I went on the air early,” Pettit said. “I was at a disadvantage because many of the candidates are elected officials and they’re already on TV. I needed to neutralize them.”
Pettit, whose law firm has advertised on television and radio for the past seven years, said his political commercials would allow viewers to “transfer name recognition from my business to my candidacy.”
Pettit’s report showed he had loaned his campaign $65,400 through Feb. 14. He said the loan is now nearly $100,000. He had $16,564 in the bank.
He said he has not held any major fund-raising events.
His spending reports indicate he paid only $6,000 in consulting fees, to his campaign manager, Marie Henderson.
“I ran [President] Carter’s Maryland campaign [in 1976] and was chairman of Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaign [in 1984],” Pettit said. “I didn’t think I needed a political consultant.”
The only other candidates in the district who filed spending reports with the FEC are Democratic Dels. Selma Marriott and Kenneth Montague.
Marriott, who represents west Baltimore in the House of Delegates, raised $16,735 and spent $16,000 as of Feb. 14. She closed the period with $9,322 on hand.
Montague, who represents northwest Baltimore, raised $12,319 and spent $16,658, according to the FEC report. He had $661 in the bank on Feb. 14.
Thirty-two candidates are competing for the seat vacated when Mfume was sworn in this month as president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The winners of the March 5 primaries will compete in a special election April 16. -30-