Armed with a $500,000 war chest donated by the developer of National Harbor, former Prince George's County Executive Wayne K. Curry plans to conduct a grassroots campaign on behalf of the gambling expansion question on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Curry's campaign committee will work parallel to the efforts of a separate group financed largely by MGM Resorts International, the prospective developer of a casino at National Harbor.
That group, FOR Maryland Jobs and Schools, has already spent at least $21 million on a media blitz in support of Question 7, which would allow a Prince George's casino and permit tables games there and at already licensed Maryland slots parlors. It has been up against an even more lavishly financed ballot committee set up by Penn National Gaming, which could lose a large share of its revenue from its casino in Charles Town, W. Va., if a rival opens at National Harbor.
Curry said his committee, Maryland First NOW -- Vote Yes on 7, will not carry out a media campaign anywhere near the scale of the two casino-backed committees.
"I'm comfortable with a style of electioneering that's pretty grassroots and having this committee gives me the chance to do it," Curry said. "I don't think it's unusual in this state for people to have different kinds of campaigns."
Curry is a popular two-term executive who left office in 2002. Since then, he has been prominent in Prince George's business circles and has been a supporter of current County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, a leading backer of a National Harbor casino.
In addition to the half-million in seed money from the Peterson Cos., Curry said he will raise additional money from businesses and community organizations interested in the county's growth. He said the group will be active in Prince George's but will extend its activities beyond its borders.
Curry said he has no financial interest in National Harbor, just an "historical" one. But he said he'd like to help stop the flow of Maryland dollars to casinos in neighboring states.
"Listening to someone who owns a casino and makes hundreds of millions off you tell you a casino is bad for you is irrational," he said. "Sending money out of state so someone else can build luxurious shopping opportunities and schools when you need them yourself is irrational."