Gov. William Donald Schaefer, concerned about "turmoil" in the state Democratic Party, has asked the party chairman, nationally prominent Democratic Party fund-raiser Nathan Landow, to resign -- but Mr. Landow has refused.
"No way," was the chairman's response, according to Pamela J. Kelly, the governor's closest political aide, who said she believed that the party's executive committee would now attempt to unseat him at a meeting Wednesday.
"The governor asked Landow to resign for the good of the party," she said. Mr. Schaefer's request was delivered on Thursday by Gerard Evans, chairman of the Prince George's County Democratic Central Committee.
If Mr. Landow were to resign or be voted out of office, Vice Chairman Vera P. Hall, a Baltimore councilwoman, would serve as acting chair, Ms. Kelly said. No permanent replacement for Mr. Landow is now under consideration, she said.
Mr. Landow, a wealthy Bethesda real estate developer, confirmed yesterday that he has said resignation "is not in the cards."
"I have to do everything I can do to stay," Mr. Landow said. He acknowledged that a clash with Mr. Schaefer, the party's highest ranking state official and its titular leader, would be "difficult and divisive," and he said he hoped to change the governor's mind.
The chairman has been battling for some time against high-ranking party members who charge him with one-man rule: taking positions for the party without consulting them; conducting what they regard as an embarrassing feud with Ronald H. Brown, the party's national chairman, and appearing to support public criticism of the governor's position on redistricting.
Referring to Mr. Landow's recurrent feud with Mr. Brown, the committee members said in a five-page letter delivered in person to the chairman Aug. 18: "[Your] public and private attacks on the national chair and general lack of respect for him causes Maryland to be diminished in influence in national party affairs and subjects Maryland Democrats to unwarranted ridicule by national committee members."
But those attempting to stage the coup have said they could not succeed without Mr. Schaefer.
"Schaefer has to land the final blow," said one party official who asked for anonymity.
Mr. Schaefer and others in the party want to remove Mr. Landow now -- before the March presidential primary in Maryland and before next summer's presidential nominating convention in New York. If the state's political profile is raised by its early position in the presidential nominating process, said Ms. Hall, it would be Mr. Landow's profile, not the governor's, that is raised.
Mr. Landow insisted yesterday that he did not regard Mr. Evans' message from Ms. Kelly a bona fide request to resign. Mr. Evans, he said, "knows better than to talk to me about resigning."
Ms. Kelly said there should be no mistaking the governor's intention. She said she has begun to call the 50 or so executive committee members to inform them of the governor's wishes in regard to Mr. Landow.
Other party officials said a vote is almost certain.
Mr. Landow's refusal to step down "proves he is not interested in the good of the Maryland Democratic Party," said Mary Jo Neville, a Democratic National Committee member. "It proves that he's only interested in Nate Landow. If he cared about the party, whether or not he thought the request for his resignation was justified, he would resign rather than cause a public furor."
The chairman said he had tried to respond to the concerns of the party's national committee members when they were presented to him on Sept. 18 at a meeting in Annapolis.
"I would hope we would come to an agreement that I have done the job I was commissioned to do, and hopefully the governor is grateful for what I have accomplished and the governor will want me to continue," he said.
But Ms. Kelly said she thinks the point of no return has been crossed.
"We're going into an election year. We have to have a little more stability in the party so it would be best for him to resign," she said.
The letter was signed by four other Maryland representatives to the Democratic National Committee: Sen. Clarence W. Blount, D-Baltimore; Councilwoman Hall; former House of Delegates member Juanita Miller of Prince George's County; Ms. Neville of Baltimore County; and Lanny J. Davis of Montgomery County.
The letter complained, among other things, of "unilateral expenditures or contributions" made without approval by the party and "serious misrepresentation of the views and philosophies of the Maryland Democrats" before national party councils.
Many in the party, Ms. Kelly pointed out, regard Mr. Landow's tenure as chairman positively. He has attempted to provide a more technologically proficient party organization and he has considerable sums of money for the party. While recognizing these positive contributions, Ms. Kelly and others say Mr. Landow has never understood that "one man, a party does not make."