A slightly nervous Gov. William Donald Schaefer is waving the banner of party unity, calling on all Democratic Party nominees to rally around the flag. The goal is simple. It is to put together "one unified Democratic team" for the entire state, according to Jim Smith, Schaefer's campaign manager.
There will be a return to the "zip trips" in which the four statewide Democratic candidates -- the governor, Lt. Gov. Mickey Steinberg, Comptroller Louis Goldstein and Attorney General Joseph Curran -- will campaign together.
Smith says that as the team goes into different counties it will pick up the Democratic nominees for county executive and council or courthouse candidates as well as the party's pick for the General Assembly.
For the most part, the effort should be successful. Past bickering has been forgotten, or put on the back burner. Schaefer and Curran on the same team. No funny games. And, whatever RTC differences existed, for example, between Schaefer and Steinberg have been settled in a direct meeting that has been described as "business-like" by those who know.
Scheduled meetings include some Schaefer critics such as Del. Louis DePazzo. Can they smoke the same peace pipe now for the general election? And, if the governor had favorites in the other party, such as Robert Neall, the Republican nominee for Anne Arundel County executive, that will be a matter for the past. The word from Smith is that the governor is backing without qualification the Democratic nominee, Ted Sophocleus.
The unity theme has old-fashioned appeal. The message is simply to vote for the Democratic ticket because it has made Maryland great, in the words of Nathan Landow, the party chairman.
The unity effort won't be complete. The Democratic Senate nominee in Baltimore County's 10th District, Janice Piccinini, for example, is running independently. That's perfectly understandable when she engineered what was the biggest upset in the state with her large margin of victory over Sen. Frank Kelly. Piccinini probably wouldn't mind if the governor put her on his slate. But she's not running with County Executive Dennis Rasmussen.
A troubled Rasmussen might have at least one, if not more, defections from his ticket. One whisper has Sen. Tommy Bromwell considering a slate without his county executive.
And there are differences in a number of districts that will prevent a perfect 100 percent Democratic slate. In Towson's 9th Election District, for example, there are profound differences between Del. Michael Gisriel and a young challenger, Gerry Brewster, who outscored him easily.
Schaefer's complete embrace of the unity theme has been spurred by his discomfort over the 100,000 votes pulled in by Fred Griisser, a little known, under-funded challenger. The governor knew he had some negatives but the 100,000 votes were disturbing. Apparently, he lost some communities such as Snow Hill. The governor doesn't like to lose.
Looking back at their primary, GOP leaders are shaking their heads. They are convinced there would be "a real race" for governor had it not been for the decision by the nominee, Bill Shepard, to have his wife, Lois, as his running mate. As it is, Shepard hasn't been able to raise the money for an effective campaign. The Shepard-Shepard ticket is regarded as more of a gimmick than a serious ticket, not only by political activists in both parties but also by members of the media as well.
Abortion, Phase II: The success of pro-choice candidates in the primaries has inspired similar tactics in the general election.
Pro-choice forces are planning a cross-party ticket in the 9th District, simply 3-Bs and a C, for Boozer-Bishop-Brewster-Culbertson. Those are Sen. Vernon Boozer, Republican, and Del. John Bishop, Republican, along with Democratic hopefuls Gerry Brewster and Charles Culbertson. The pro-life targets are Dels. Martha Klima, Republican, and Michael Gisriel, Democrat.
In Baltimore County's 8th District, the full GOP team of senatorial nominee William Rush and House of Delegate hopefuls Ken Hirsch, Jim Ports and Al Redmer, is 100 percent pro-choice. The candidates say they will make abortion "the number one campaign issue." Their main target is Sen. Tommy Bromwell, the Democratic incumbent and a prominent filibusterer who helped block a vote on legislation that would have encoded the abortion rights for women as spelled out in Roe v. Wade.
Abortion, Phase III: An overlooked reason there won't be an abortion filibuster in the next session is that Senate President Mike Miller is making it a leadership question to get bills to a vote. Four of his committee vice chairmen helped in the filibuster last year. Not any more, says Miller, not another "debacle" in 1991. One of the pro-choice senators, the city's Barbara Hoffman, is slated to take the critical vice chair position that was held by Senator Kelly on the Budget and Taxation Committee. She will be the highest ranking woman in the Senate.