True to their advance billings, Baltimore's Barbara A. Mikulski and Kurt L. Schmoke played key roles in the Democratic National Convention that chose Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton as the party's presidential candidate this week. As spokespersons for two major constituencies -- urban dwellers and women -- they easily outshone Gov. William Donald Schaefer, whose low opinion of his party's nominee is well known.
This division of forces, while hardly a public relations dream, is not without its uses. If President Bush wins the election, Mr. Schaefer's cordial relations with the Republican incumbent could continue to be an asset for Maryland. If Mr. Clinton triumphs, Senator Mikulski (assuming she prevails over GOP challenger Alan Keyes) and Mayor Schmoke (either inside or outside a Democratic administration) could be expected to look after state and local interests.
Ms. Mikulski, as the only woman Democrat in the U.S. Senate, was on constant display in Madison Square Garden as the acknowledged leader of a contingent of Democratic women running for high office. She expects not to be all alone after the new Senate assembles in January.
Mayor Schmoke, getting a prime slot in last night's widely watched acceptance-speech final session, accused the Bush administration of "trashing cities and the people who live in them." He said a President Clinton would bring a "new covenant" to America's cities, one that would mean investment in children, higher education, job training, health care, transportation and the environment.
Ironically, the Schmoke speech came just one day after a Schaefer administration budget official said Maryland's fiscal squeeze would force the governor to cut $5.7 million in state aid to Baltimore City. Mayor Schmoke said he knew this was coming and had prepared for it without any rise in city tax rates. Governor Schaefer, in comments implicitly critical of both presidential candidates, said he wanted to know how Mr. Clinton will stop breaking the back of states with federal program mandates the states cannot afford. This has been a constant Schaefer gripe during the Bush era recession.
Convention high-jinks aside, relations between state and local officials and power centers in Washington go to the core of what realistic governance is all about. During the Carter administration, then-Mayor Schaefer and some of his top aides were acknowledged experts in the art of grantsmanship -- of getting money from the federal government for urban revitalization and people programs.
While this cornucopia has gradually dried up during the Reagan-Bush years, it is still of great importance in state and city financing.
The prominence of Mayor Schmoke and Senator Mikulski at this week's national convention and the governor's barely disguised preference for President Bush strikes us as a nice bit of happenstance to protect the interests of Maryland and all of its subdivisions, the counties as well as the city.