Cardin may be thinking governor


January 06, 1993|By C. Fraser Smith | C. Fraser Smith,Staff Writer

Is Ben Cardin looking toward Annapolis yet again?

The Democratic congressman from the 3rd District has commissioned polls presumably to test his potential strength in a 1994 race for governor. No other candidate would bring to the contest more experience or greater respect among his peers. And, some would say, less electronic sex appeal.

As a state legislator who served two terms as House speaker, Mr. Cardin was the Assembly's pre-eminent fiscal expert, a consensus builder of consummate skill who made legislators feel a part of things even when they were not.

As a practitioner of the charismatic arts, on the other hand, he was less than masterful. William Donald Schaefer left his beloved desk at City Hall in 1986 because he thought Mr. Cardin could not defeat Stephen H. Sachs, then the attorney general, and no favorite of Mr. Schaefer's. So the mayor pre-empted the House speaker, who ran for Congress instead, and the rest is recent history.

Today, Mr. Schaefer and some of his allies would welcome Mr. Cardin's return. This time it is Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg who must be turned back. Mr. Steinberg is guilty of gross disloyalty, in the eyes of the Schaefer team. They want to block him and they have yearned for a candidate they can back, someone like Mr. Cardin.

But Mr. Cardin has a tremendously attractive alternative career path, one that could make him a contender for speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

He has the right skills, of course. And many of his colleagues were felled before or during the last election by bad checks or by anti-incumbency sentiments of another sort. Mr. Cardin moved up nine rungs on the ladder of seniority in his committee, Ways and Means. Before the election he stood 22nd among the 24 Democrats. Now he is 13th. That kind of movement is meteoric when measured against the usually glacial progress of a House once known for low turnover.

Mr. Cardin recently became one of the 435 representatives to serve on the 33-member House Steering Committee, an important House council.

All of this promise must now be measured against the poll results. With many other candidates hard at work on organizing and fund-raising, Mr. Cardin's decision is probably not far in the future.

The team of Dennis & Dennis

Dennis F. Rasmussen, the former Baltimore County executive, and Dennis C. McCoy, a former Baltimore legislator, have formed a lobbying combine.

A news release issued this week recalls that Mr. Rasmussen served four years in the House of Delegates and eight in the Senate, where he was chairman of the Finance Committee before his election to the county executive post. Mr. McCoy was a three-term member of the House.

Current critics of government contend that elected and appointed officials should be delayed in their movement through the so-called revolving door that barely separates those who make policy from those who influence policy.

To be sure, Mr. Rasmussen and Mr. McCoy have been out of government per se for some time. If anyone has forgotten where they hail from politically, though, their press release says they will be "the only lobbying organization in Maryland that includes former members of both the Senate and the House of Delegates."

Mr. McCoy currently represents such corporations as Joseph Seagram & Sons Inc., the Smokeless Tobacco Council, ALAMO Car Rental, Digital Equipment Corp., the Maryland-D.C. Press Association and the Baltimore Zoo.

The one-time legislators will call their new lobbying firm -- drum roll, please -- Maryland Public Affairs Associates.

Still running real hard

Maryland's Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein wants you to know he's running. Though his age, 81, rivals the coming election year, '94, Mr. Goldstein goes out of his way to declare his intentions.

If re-elected, the man with the famous salutation -- "God Bless You All Real Good" -- would be serving a 10th term, an even 40 years of counting the state's money.

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