Bentley vs. Mikulski in '92

Newswatch...on Maryland Politics

January 04, 1991|By Peter Kumpa

The state's senior Republican office-holder, Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, R-2nd, might take an option to run for the Senate in 1992. The prospect of a Bentley run against Barbara Mikulski, the only Democratic woman in the U.S. Senate, has political insiders excited.

It would be the first well-matched Senate contest between political heavyweights in Maryland in memory. And such a contest would bring national attention because both women have a reputation as hard-charging, battling campaigners. Political opposites, they are good friends personally. But that wouldn't prevent an election fight.

Bentley came close to a Senate race two years ago. She explored the possibility of challenging Sen. Paul Sarbanes when the GOP was searching for a candidate, but changed her mind at the last moment.

While Bentley would prefer to run against Sarbanes, she has said that she may be driven to run against Mikulski because of one Democratic redistricting plan that would combine parts of her district and that of freshman Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest. If such a plan were adopted, Bentley might have to face Gilchrest in a new district that would include territory where she has never before run for election.

Bentley, according to GOP sources, is more annoyed than concerned over running in a newly drawn district. But at 67, these sources say, the congresswoman and Republican national committeewoman may not have many Senate chances left. Another factor in consideration is a GOP view that Mikulski is more vulnerable than ever because of rising Republican strength in the state. If any candidate, other than Bentley, were to capture a Senate seat, it would end the congresswoman's position as the leading Republican in the state. That is a position she cherishes.

She has used it to battle for judicial and other appointments in the administration although her relations with the White House have soured because of policy disagreements in such areas as trade. Bentley's combative nature has won her friends in the party, but it has made some enemies. She cannot rely on a free ride in a GOP Senate primary. But the challenge of a fight might draw her into a contest rather than frighten her away from it.

If the General Assembly changes the 1992 primary date to the second Tuesday in March, as recommended by Nathan Landow, state Democratic chairman, filings for federal races would close this December. That doesn't give too much time for any candidate to prepare for a major race.

Usually, there is a longer lead time in politics. And, if street talk can be believed, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke of Baltimore has his eye on a Senate run, perhaps as early as 1994. Schmoke's name also has come up frequently as a possible running mate in a future gubernatorial contest.

There was talk of a Kramer-Schmoke ticket this past summer. That was before Montgomery County Executive Sidney Kramer was unexpectedly defeated in the Democratic primary in September, retiring him from political life. Now Schmoke's name is sometimes matched with that of Prince George's County Executive Parris Glendening in a Glendening-Schmoke ticket.

Both Glendening and Lt. Gov. Melvin A. "Micky" Steinberg are in the initial planning stages for gubernatorial runs in 1994.

Schmoke prefers the Senate, according to informed sources, and would try for such a seat if Paul Sarbanes was not a candidate for re-election. All of this presumes a Schmoke re-election as mayor this year.

After Schmoke in City Hall? Long-range visionaries see a battle between City Council President Mary Pat Clarke and State's Attorney Stuart O. Simms.


It was a close and scary call for Sen. Paula Hollinger, D-Balto. a couple of Saturdays ago when she was hit head-on while driving in her lane over the crest of a hill on the narrow and winding Lyons Mills Road. The front end of her car was crushed. She slammed on her brakes so hard that her foot was broken. Her car was turned into crumpled scrap, totaled.

The cast has been removed from her foot. She is now hobbling along on crutches. Asked for her reaction, Hollinger had a simple message: "Seat belts! Seat belts! Seat belts!" And the senator added, "a big American car." She was driving one. "If I had a smaller car, I would have been totaled as well." The effervescent Hollinger will be on hand for the General Assembly opener next week.


Look for the filing of more than one abortion bill next week, the day after the General Assembly opens. Talks are now being held for prompt joint hearings. The leadership wants to dispose of the troublesome issue early.

Look for the appointment by March 1 of Baltimore County GOP Chairman Richard Bennett as United States attorney for Maryland. His name is reported moving smoothly in Washington.

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