Could Schmoke do Schaefer favor?

THE POLITICAL SCENE

March 03, 1993|By C. Fraser Smith | C. Fraser Smith,Staff Writer

Has Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke found a way to Gov. William Donald Schaefer's heart?

Not that he's trying. The two men have feuded over real and imagined slights for years.

But Mr. Schmoke's recent suggestion that he might run for governor in 1994 could lead Mr. Schaefer to believe Mr. Schmoke is not all bad.

The governor harbors a hope of serving again as mayor of Baltimore.

For that to occur, Mr. Schmoke needs to find other work. So, the mayor's aspirations represent a potential opening for Mr. Schaefer.

Obstacles to a political renaissance for Mr. Schaefer in Baltimore are substantial. Some of his friends are saying: Don't risk it.

They fear the old Schaefer organization, the neighborhood associations and their loyal leaders, may no longer be active. Or, if they are, allegiances may have shifted elsewhere.

While Mr. Schaefer can point to many accomplishments in Annapolis, the naysayers fear that wounds inflicted on him by the economy -- or by his own sometimes irascible behavior -- have have dropped him too deeply into the pits of public disfavor. And isn't he the Democrat who endorsed Republican George Bush over Bill Clinton?

But some of the governor's friends are urging him to run, Schmoke or no Schmoke. They would have him run on his record -- in city hall. Many in the business community would be with him. He could raise money. And the city might be ready for one more round of Schaeferian energy, though he would be 73 in 1995, the mayoral election year.

But Council President Mary Pat Clarke, who would be mayor for a year if Mr. Schmoke wins, would be a strong contender. The current mayor's friend and political strategist, Larry Gibson, might find a new candidate. Others might enter.

Mr. Schaefer's best hope might be that many worthies would run, effectively killing one another off.

Still, some of his friends would like to see him rest. They don't want to see him defeated in the city he worked so hard to revive.

At the same time, they can't imagine him in retirement.

If Mr. Schmoke is serious, may be they won't have to try.

A Kremlin takeover?

Greg Pecoraro recently found himself in the throes of Russia's transition to a democratic society.

Traveling under auspices of the American Council of Young Political Leaders, founded to promote understanding among young leaders in the superpowers, he met with Russian officials in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Novgorod.

Mr. Pecoraro, 36, a state Democratic Party official, helped manage last fall's presidential campaign in Maryland and has run many other campaigns.

He says he began to see some intriguing possibilities in Russia's evolving political system.

When a 17-year-old Muscovite wanted advice about how to win a city election, Mr. Pecoraro got to thinking. State-of-the-art techniques would be of little value:

Direct mail and phone banks are out because the mail and phone systems are not reliable. Television advertising would cost too much.

What's left?

Old-fashioned precinct organizing, or "lit drops" done building by building. With no more than shoe leather, he thought, he or some other political technician might be able to take over the entire country.

The thought seemed plausible because political organizing, not needed in the old Soviet Union, still does not exist and because the country is so preoccupied with its economic problems.

On a street in Moscow, Mr. Pecoraro saw people standing with a pair of trousers, a child's coat, a boot or a household item held high for sale.

He and the others in his group -- four Democrats and four Republicans -- met with political leaders and found them deferring to churchmen, who are regaining their churches as well as their authority. "Go home and tell people we need help," a cleric told them. "Tell them to send that help to the church. We'll do a better job of distributing it."

Anxious to please their potential advocates in the United States, his Russian hosts were more than gracious. With the exception of what he said was "outstanding vanilla ice cream," the food did not always suit an American palate. But there was plenty of it.

"They fed us like kings -- or commissars at the very least."

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