Party upset over Schaefer's backing of Bush

November 07, 1992|By John W. Frece | John W. Frece,Staff Writer

What do you do with a Democratic governor who endorses the Republican president?

Censure him, say some Maryland Democrats, so party leaders will think twice before committing such a political indiscretion in the future.

But others within the state's Democratic Party, which convenes a long-scheduled, post-election Central Committee meeting today in Baltimore, say the party should forget about Gov. William Donald Schaefer's decision to endorse President Bush in Tuesday's election. After all, they say, the Democrats won.

"The governor most people in the party are interested in is the one we're going to elect in 1994," said Gregory Pecoraro, who has been serving as the state party's acting director.

Nevertheless, the committee's more than 200 members are expected to be asked to approve some sort of statement criticizing Mr. Schaefer for bolting from the party fold.

Party leaders said some disgruntled regulars were circulating proposals last week that ranged from a simple statement of disapproval to one resolution that would formally censure Mr. Schaefer.

"People are still pretty incensed by what the governor did," said Michael Gildea, the party chairman in Montgomery County. Mr. Gildea said he had not seen any of the proposals, but said he felt Mr. Schaefer's action should not go unpunished.

"It seems to me you can't maintain any modicum of party discipline -- you can't tell party precinct workers they've got to stick with the slate and support the party -- if the highest ranking Democrat goes the other direction in a way that could have harmed the national ticket," Mr. Gildea said. Others in the party hierarchy, however, were preaching calm.

"A lot of people are angry at the governor, and rightfully so," said state party Chairwoman Vera P. Hall.

"But he has not committed anything that resembles a criminal offense that needs him removed from anything. He's hurt himself. We should leave it alone," she said.

Former Congressman Michael D. Barnes, the party vice chairman, declined to comment yesterday. But sources said both he and Mrs. Hall were calling committee members urging them to go easy on the governor.

Page Boinest, Mr. Schaefer's acting press secretary, said the governor was aware that party members were unhappy, as first reported yesterday in the Washington Post. But she insisted the governor had done much for the Democratic Party during his long career despite the Bush endorsement.

The Bush endorsement was the central topic of debate on Mr. Schaefer's radio talk show this week.

"I honestly thought I had a right to endorse and vote for who I wanted," Mr. Schaefer explained to listeners. "All of a sudden I find out a governor doesn't have that right. Even though his conscience is against it, he is supposed to be for somebody he doesn't think is the right man."

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