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Campaign Finance Analysis: In Baltimore County, Brochin Bets Big on Media

James Brochin just slid towers of his chips onto the roulette table and told the croupier to spin the wheel.

Brochin, a Democratic state senator running for Baltimore County executive, caught the attention of even those who don’t care about politics on Tuesday, when they saw he had committed more than 90 percent of his campaign money — more than $850,000 — to media and advertising.

It is an early big-money gamble that has left him with only $61,297 in the bank.

“If I can get my message out, I can win,” Brochin asserted, in support of what many see as an unorthodox decision.

Brochin put his fate in the hands a Washington, D.C., consultant he has known for 24 years, David Heller, a principal in what has grown into Main Street Communications Inc. Heller has had a long list of clients in Maryland. He has slated $550,000 for television advertising and another $180,000 for radio.

Sen. James Brochin

Other candidates in the race for county executive — both Democrat and Republican alike — are holding onto the cash reserves they believe they will need in the final crunch before the June 26 primary, according to the latest campaign finance reports filed Tuesday.

That is the conventional wisdom.

One of Brochin’s Democratic primary opponents, Vicki L. Almond, the 2nd District County Council representative, spent just $83,644 of the money she raised between Jan. 11 and May 15, the period covered by the campaign finance reports filed this week with the Maryland State Board of Elections. Little more than $2,000 went to media, $1,500 of it to consulting fees.

Almond finished the reporting period with a whopping $736,395 in cash on hand.

Another opponent, John A. “Johnny O” Olszewski Jr., a former member of the Maryland House of Delegates, spent $150,926 since the start of the reporting period, leaving him with $539,589 in the bank.

Olszewski spent $26,543 on media, far more than Almond, but nothing that approached what Brochin did. Most of his money, $20,993, went for online advertising, and another $4,800 paid for website development.

On the Republican side, both candidates spent more than they raised since Jan. 11, but in hugely smaller proportions than Brochin.

Alfred W. Redmer Jr., a former House member and the Maryland insurance commissioner who has the support of GOP Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr., spent $169,130, leaving him with $120,955 on hand. Redmer spent $27,699 on media, and less than half of that went to polling.

His GOP primary opponent, Patrick L. McDonough, another member of the House and radio talk show host on WCBM-AM, spent $40,212, leaving him with $22,076, heading into the final five weeks of the election. Nearly half of McDonough’s media $4,336 expense — $2,039 — went for billboard and outside advertising, with most of the rest for online and newspaper ads.

Brochin’s history with Heller, the Democratic communications consultant, goes back to a time before he even considered running for public office, back when he took his first job in politics — as campaign manager for American Joe Miedusiewski and his 1994 bid for governor.

Heller developed a series of radio ads for Miedusiewski that helped raised his name recognition statewide — advertisements that were seen as being so successful that Main Street Communications still touts some of them on its website.

Brochin and Heller hit it off instantly, and he has used the company ever since.

Miedusiewski ended up running second in a seven-candidate Democratic primary in which Parris N. Glendening won the gubernatorial nomination with 293,314 votes (54 percent).

American Joe captured 100,296 votes (18 percent) statewide, even edging out former Lt. Gov. Melvin A. “Mickey” Steinberg, who was once favored to win, but who only took 82,308 votes (15 percent).

Not bad for a previously little-known state senator from East Baltimore.

Over the years, Main Street has come to count among its clients U.S. Rep. C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger (D), U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D), and Kevin B. Kamenetz, the former Baltimore County executive who until his sudden death May 10 was running for Maryland governor.

Television advertisements for all of them are on the company’s website, including a Kamenetz for county executive spot from 2010.

To see summaries of the candidates’ campaign finance activities, click here.

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Campaign Finance Analysis: In Baltimore County, Brochin Bets Big on Media