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For Democratic Candidates: It's Miller Time

Maryland Senate President Mike Miller (D-Calvert), unlike many political leaders, isn't keen on neutrality in the upcoming Democratic primary. He's endorsing a host of Democrats in contested races and is giving money to them all.

Miller said yesterday he is backing Ben Cardin in his primary battle with Kweisi Mfume for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate; Janet Owens, who is in the comptroller race against incumbent William Donald Schaefer and Montgomery delegate Peter Franchot; and Isiah "Ike" Leggett for Montgomery County executive.

Evidence of his support emerged from this week's campaign finance reports. Marylanders for Mike Miller gave $1,000 to the Friends of Ike Leggett in the Democratic primary. Leggett, a former chairman of the state party and a former County Council member, is in a battle with council member Steven A. Silverman, who has raised about $1.9 million to Leggett's $770,000.

The Miller campaign committee also gave $999.99 (really) to State Sen. Paula Hollinger, a Miller protege facing a tough contest in Maryland's 3rd Congressional District.

Miller also gave $5,000 to Ben Barnes, a former staffer running for delegate from Prince George's.

"Politics is about making choices," said Miller, who added that he had just sent Leggett another $1,000. "If you believe in the Democratic Party, you want the very best people there. I don't give money to people I don't want to see get elected."

Miller, who talked openly about the risk to the Democratic party of a hotly contested gubernatorial primary, donated $1,500 to Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley a few weeks after Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan quit the race in June.

Speaking of Duncan, this week's finance report showed the Democratic candidate for governor struggled financially up to his June exit from the race.

Duncan, who cited clinical depression as the reason for his exit, reported raising $669,864 in the first part of the year -- and spent more than $1.6 million. As of Aug. 8, his account had $409,403.

By contrast, O'Malley and his running mate reported about $5.1 million in cash on hand, while Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s ticket showed $8.7 million in the bank.

Duncan's 2006 fundraising peaked in May, when he was airing television ads in Baltimore and basking in generally positive reviews for selecting Baltimore lawyer Stuart O. Simms as his running mate. Some polls at that time suggested the primary race with O'Malley was starting to tighten.

Still, the $162,668 that Duncan took in during May pales in comparison with O'Malley's total that month: more than $800,000.

A Duncan aide said yesterday that the county executive is likely to share some of his remaining cash with other candidates but that discussions remain preliminary. The only money Duncan has given thus far was $6,000 -- the maximum allowed under law -- to Simms, who is now running for attorney general and hurting for cash himself.

Miranda Spivack and John Wagner

By Phyllis Jordan  |  August 18, 2006; 6:25 AM ET
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