Landow resigns as state leader for Democrats Fund-raising role for Clinton ends contentious term

July 22, 1992|By Marina Sarris and Tom Bowman | Marina Sarris and Tom Bowman,Staff Writers

ANNAPOLIS -- Maryland Democratic Party Chairman Nathan Landow is resigning to become a national fund-raiser for the Clinton-Gore campaign, making a graceful exit from a state organization disgruntled by his heavy-handedness.

In his announcement yesterday, Mr. Landow, 59, denied his resignation had been spurred by long-standing disagreements with party officials, including a well-publicized shouting match with Gov. William Donald Schaefer at the Democratic National Convention in New York.

"That had no effect," Mr. Landow said of his spat with the #F governor over which one of them should announce Maryland's votes last week. (They compromised on the roll call.)

"It was one more distraction, but not a deterrent for the goals I've set out for myself and the party," said Mr. Landow, a wealthy developer from Bethesda.

Still, "The Great Microphone War" created a spectacle that embarrassed Maryland delegates.

Party insiders say Mr. Landow's behavior in New York, along with his long-standing disputes with national and state Democratic leaders, convinced them Mr. Landow should go.

They criticized his "heavy-handed" rationing of floor passes, his "bullying" treatment of several convention delegates and his feuding with Democratic National Committee Chairman Ronald H. Brown.

Ginny Terzano, a spokeswoman for the national committee, said she expected Mr. Landow and Mr. Brown to work together to put a Democrat in the White House.

"When Mr. Landow focuses on politics, he is very good and effective," she said. "When he focuses on personal attacks, it does not serve the Democratic Party well. We certainly hope that in his new role we all keep our eyes on the prize -- to get Bill Clinton and Al Gore elected."

Party insiders said the fund-raising job presented Mr. Landow with an opportunity to leave gracefully the post he has held for 3 1/2 years.

Mr. Landow began telling friends months ago he would depart after the convention, one party source said. Another, however, contended that Mr. Landow would have tried to keep his job if Senator Gore had not joined the presidential ticket. "Without Gore, I don't think he'd be doing this," he said.

Mr. Landow said he was looking forward to working with his "longtime friend," Mr. Gore. In 1988, Mr. Landow was national finance co-chairman of the Tennessee senator's presidential campaign.

Mr. Landow said he could not do both jobs. "I do not believe that I could make the required commitment while at the same time carrying out my new responsibilities for the Clinton-Gore campaign," he said.

One source said Mr. Landow pledged to raise $1 million for the presidential ticket. Mr. Landow declined to offer a dollar figure, saying only, "I've always been able to do a number that pleased everyone."

The Clinton campaign has a $2.9 million debt from the primaries, said Fred Eiland, a Federal Election Commission spokesman.

Mr. Landow's resignation takes effect Saturday, when the 55-member executive committee of the state party is to meet in Annapolis.

The committee will pick a temporary chairman to serve until the full, 348-member Central Committee ratifies a permanent chairman, probably within the next few months.

State Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller called Mr. Landow's resignation and new job a "win-win situation."

Mr. Landow's considerable fund-raising talents will help Mr. Gore, while the state party will get a new chairman who "will be closer to and work better with William Donald Schaefer and other elected officials," said the Prince George's County Democrat.

Mr. Schaefer tried to oust Mr. Landow from his party post last fall, but failed after some influential Democrats sided with the chairman.

At the time, the governor asked the party's executive committee to retire Mr. Landow after hearing concerns about the chairman's "one-man" style of leadership from members of the congressional delegation, the General Assembly, the party's State Central Committee, and from Democratic National Committee members from Maryland.

"My efforts have been vindicated," Governor Schaefer said yesterday. "I think Mr. Landow's ambitions were met when he went to the convention."

The resignation "will be a great step for the party. What the party needs is a healer. Someone like Mike Barnes," he said.

Mr. Barnes, an attorney who served in the House of Representatives from 1979 to 1987, chaired a growth-management commission the governor appointed several years ago.

Mr. Barnes said last night that he was interested in the party chairmanship but that he had not yet decided whether to seek it. "We have a great opportunity to win the White House, and I want to see Maryland play an important role in that victory," he said.

Another potential contender is lobbyist Gerard E. Evans, chairman of the Prince George's County Democratic Central Committee.

Mr. Evans said he was considering a bid even though he has the "greatest admiration for Mike Barnes." Several influential state lawmakers have urged him to run, Mr. Evans said.

Another name being batted around Annapolis for the party post is that of Vera P. Hall, vice president of the Baltimore City Council and vice chairwoman of the party's state central committee.

Meanwhile, after a successor is named, Mr. Landow will work full-time for the Clinton ticket, which he joined only after flirting with other White House hopefuls.

He flew to Iowa to help kick off the campaign of Sen. Tom Harkin, who set up his campaign headquarters in the Landow Building in Bethesda.

In April, Mr. Landow made a $1,000 donation to Paul Tsongas.

Mr. Landow did not contribute to the Clinton campaign until June, when he endorsed the Arkansas governor.

"I am a Clinton supporter," he said. "My commitment to Clinton increased tremendously when Al Gore was added to the ticket."

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