After Nathan Landow

July 23, 1992

Nathan Landow's exit as chairman of the Maryland Democratic Party is being hailed in many quarters -- and for good reasons. For all his skill as a fund raiser and his commitment to making the state party and modern technology more compatible, Mr. Landow was a dud when it came to working with the party's activists and regulars. Like another wealthy businessman interested in politics who comes to mind these days, he lacked the true political animal's "people skills." Gov. William Donald Schaefer's dislike for him was not atypical among Democratic officeholders.

There is some question whether the party's modernized operations will survive with Mr. Landow gone -- or whether they should survive unchanged. One measure of a party's success is its growth. In the nearly four years that Mr. Landow served as chairman, it was Maryland Republicans whose numbers increased on the voter registration rolls. The number of Democratic registered voters in the state went down. As for his vaunted fund raising, he came in like Midas -- but he has not raised any significant amount of money for the state party in the past two years.

That was probably because his horizons were far beyond the state of Maryland's boundaries. He had national aspirations that he neither hid nor reined in. Many Maryland Democrats felt this was the real problem. Everything he did -- fighting for an early presidential primary, pushing his own congressional redistricting plan, wooing presidential candidates, fighting with National Committee Chairman Ron Brown over rules -- seemed to be related to his desire to take Mr. Brown's job.

As a fund raiser now for the national ticket with, apparently, an unprecedented allegiance to the vice presidential candidate (he has been a supporter of Albert Gore Jr. since the 1988 campaign) rather than to the presidential candidate, Mr. Landow may be in a good spot to seek the job he really wants after this year's election.

His successor in Maryland ought to be someone who can build on his innovations -- and put the state party's interests first.

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