Schaefer slow to get on Clinton-Gore bandwagon DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION

July 16, 1992|By C. Fraser Smith | C. Fraser Smith,Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- Gov. William Donald Schaefer demanded and won the right yesterday to announce on television the vote of Maryland's Democratic delegates for Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton -- and then coyly withheld his own endorsement.

Refusing resolutely to be swept away by the party's growing optimism and excitement, the governor left himself in sharp contrast to the unanimous backing given to the party's ticket by the Maryland delegation.

All 85 of Maryland's delegates voted for the team of Bill Clinton for president and Tennessee Sen. Al Gore for vice president. But Mr. Schaefer turned aside the entreaties of various party leaders, including Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, to become a part of it.

"The Democrats have a great opportunity this year," Mr. Schaefer said, explaining his reluctance.

But, scanning a convention hall awash in hoopla, he said: "What do I care about this? What do I care about all these speeches? What I want to know specifically is how Mr. Clinton will stop breaking the back of the states with federal program mandates. I want to know how he will stop the export of manufacturing jobs overseas.

"What about education? Now is the time. It's his turn to say what he would do." Tomorrow night, perhaps, the governor of Maryland will decide if and how he will support his party's nominee.

With no suspense remaining in the nomination process, the governor said, why not look ahead and make clear that the candidate must find ways to communicate clearly and in detail about jobs, cities, health care and the like?

Mr. Schaefer spent much of yes terday locked in a struggle with state party chairman Nathan Landow in what Maryland delegates were already calling "The Great Microphone War."

Since the world knew who the nominee would be and since Maryland's votes have no extraordinary significance in the arithmetic of victory, the stakes were a few seconds of television time -- and the upper hand in the continuation of a long-running personal feud between a willful party chairman and a cantankerous governor.

Yesterday morning, Mr. Landow was confident that he would hold the microphone when the announcement of Maryland's support for Governor Clinton was made.

No, said the governor shortly after he arrived by bus with 150 other Marylanders yesterday afternoon, it would not be Mr. Landow.

"He's not going to do it," Mr. Schaefer said firmly. "Mr. Landow won't be doing it, or there'll be two of us doing it."

The governor said he and Mr. Landow had not discussed the matter.

"He's very busy," the governor said with mock seriousness. "That's why we have a very good seating section [in the convention hall] behind Guam and Hawaii."

Some Maryland delegates believe they were relegated to balcony seats as retaliation for Mr. Landow's long-running feud with Ronald H. Brown, the national party chairman.

Though Mr. Landow has supporters in the Maryland delegation, he is losing the support of leading legislators who saved him from an earlier ouster attempt by the governor.

"When this is over," one of his former backers said yesterday, "he's finished. And if we have to change the party rules to do it, we will."

Legislators have grown increasingly restive with Mr. Landow's eagerness to appear as the party's most important official. Meanwhile, Maryland delegates were imagining two grown men grappling over a microphone -- on prime time. As a result, several delegates began to think about compromise. Why not diffuse the situation by letting Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski make the announcement? they suggested.

But neither of the major combatants seemed to have compromise in mind.

"We have been doing an admirable job of getting together," said Delegate Joanne C. Benson, D-Prince George's. "We don't have time for foolishness. We need to put all foolishness, all pettiness aside and get on with electing the next president of the United States."

Ms. Benson and others backed Chairman Landow for several reasons:

* The governor has conducted a partial boycott of the convention, arriving only yesterday to repeat his view that conventions are irrelevant.

* As of yesterday morning, Mr. Schaefer was still avoiding anything like an enthusiastic endorsement of Mr. Clinton. * Mr. Schaefer's friendship with President Bush leaves some Maryland Democrats wondering if the governor might announce he is supporting the Republican. Schaefer aides have insisted he will eventually relent and work for the Democratic nominee, and yesterday Mr. Schaefer said: "I'm here because I'm a Democrat." Nevertheless, the Democrats from Maryland, sensing an opportunity for victory, are not happy with his do-it-later approach.

Chairman Landow said he expected other state chairmen to make the announcement of how their delegations vote -- so why shouldn't he? But in the end, Mr. Landow backed down, allowing Mr. Schaefer to hold the microphone.

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