The filing deadline for next year's election of a Baltimore City comptroller is not until next summer -- but already the fur is flying.
On Monday, Councilwoman Jacqueline F. McLean, D-2nd, announced she would run for comptroller. Less than 24 hours later she was tangling with unannounced challenger Joseph T. "Jody" Landers, D-3rd, over whether the city should pay for optional health benefits for municipal employees called to reserve duty in the Persian Gulf.
The verbal tussle began at Tuesday night's council meeting, when Councilman Landers introduced a resolution calling for continued payment of the city portion of employee health insurance premiums for reservists.
Mrs. McLean immediately challenged the resolution, saying the city might be better off if it let Uncle Sam care for the troops.
She said active duty reservists and their families are entitled to free medical care at military installations. Reservists who prefer to maintain their employee health care coverage should pay for it, Mrs. McLean added.
"I happen to know the health benefits from the military are excellent," said the councilwoman, whose father served in the U.S. armed forces for 21 years. "Just because the money is budgeted doesn't mean we have to spend it."
That irked Mr. Landers, who said forcing the reservists to pay would burden families -- already disrupted by the military call-up -- who chose to retain their city health benefits.
Most of the council sided with him, and passed the resolution 14-1 with two abstentions and two absentees.
Mr. Landers left no doubt that he intends to challenge Mrs. McLean in next year's race for comptroller. "I'm definitely running," he said.
He is not likely to be alone. Other prospective candidates include Del.John W. Douglass, D-Baltimore, who unsuccessfully challenged Hyman A. Pressman in 1983 and 1978; councilman Carl Stokes, D-2nd, state Sen. George W. Della, D-Baltimore,
and Register of Wills Mary W. Conaway.
Mr. Pressman, who is in his sixth term as city comptroller, has announced he won't run again.