Mitchell says others urge him to run for governor STATE HOUSE REPORT

February 06, 1993|By John W. Frece | John W. Frece,Staff Writer

House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., a six-term Eastern Shore delegate from one of the smallest counties in the state, said yesterday that friends and fellow legislators are encouraging him to run for governor in 1994.

Mr. Mitchell, however, said he has not decided whether to run, and that he will not do so until after the current General Assembly session adjourns in mid-April.

The 56-year-old Kent County Democrat said he would not be surprised if other public officials, such as Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., were similarly being encouraged to get into the governor's race.

Gov. William Donald Schaefer is barred from seeking a third term.

"My first loyalty is to the House," Mr. Mitchell said yesterday in response to a Washington Post story suggesting he was interested in the governorship.

This year, the strong-willed speaker is forcefully pushing legislation to consolidate Cabinet agencies, trim Medicaid costs and reform the state's health care delivery system.

Mr. Mitchell, who in the past has expressed interest in becoming the state treasurer should that job become vacant, said Governor Schaefer once asked him if he were interested in running for governor, but that the two of them have not discussed the idea further.

Other Democrats expected to seek the governorship include Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg, Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr., Maryland Secretary of State Winfield M. Kelly Jr. and Prince George's County Executive Parris N. Glendening. Mr. Schaefer has been at odds with all of them except Mr. Kelly.

Were Mr. Mitchell to join the race, he would most likely anchor the conservative end of the Democratic field.

There is some question, however, whether Mr. Mitchell could raise the necessary money and otherwise mount a successful statewide campaign. He has not faced tough election battles in his rural district.

Some suggest that those encouraging him to run may simply want him out as speaker, a change that would allow others to move up. Last month, Mr. Mitchell survived -- with Mr. Schaefer's help -- an attempt by disgruntled delegates to oust him.

Mr. Mitchell said he was worried that even talk about a possible candidacy could color people's views of his positions on important issues before the legislature.

He said he could remember when then-House Speaker Benjamin L. Cardin of Baltimore (now a U.S. congressman) announced plans to run for governor in 1986 and how his every move was then interpreted in a political context.

"I don't want that to happen," Mr. Mitchell said.

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