Democrats by the half-dozen

June 22, 1993

Pssst. Wanna be governor? Better take a number and stan in line.

There's no dearth of candidates looking longingly at the prospect of running the state of Maryland come 1995, when Gov. William Donald Schaefer is forced to retire after serving two consecutive terms. No front-runner has emerged, but it is still early.

On the Democratic side, two announced contenders are organizing and building large war chests. Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg of Baltimore County held a big fund-raiser this past week in Woodlawn, which should keep him No. 2 in the money behind Prince George's County Executive Parris Glendening, who soon will announce that he is over the $1 million mark. Running a statewide campaign isn't cheap these days.

Meanwhile, Attorney General J. Joseph Curran is spending his nights electioneering. His official pronouncements sound like campaign handouts, highlighting Mr. Curran's pro-consumer views on any and all issues. Right now, Mr. Curran is a candidate for governor, but he hasn't foreclosed running for re-election, either.

Dr. Neil Solomon is a long shot candidate at this stage, but he can't be ruled out. The well-known physician is having surprising success raising funds and is thinking about a Perot-style run for the state's top spot. Then there is state Sen. Mary Boergers of Montgomery County, who says she's serious about running for governor. She'll have to play catch-up to create a statewide image for herself.

And finally, Mayor Kurt Schmoke increasingly sounds like a man who wants to live in Annapolis. His financial backers came away from a breakfast meeting last week convinced he is running. He has scheduled a $500 a ticket fund-raiser for September, a tip-off that he plans to get serious about his 1994 intentions.

As if this weren't enough, four Republicans are eyeing the governor's seat. Anne Arundel County Executive Robert Neall is the favorite of political pros and party leaders but he hasn't made up his mind; Rep. Helen Bentley has name recognition in her favor but is undecided; House Minority Leader Ellen Sauerbrey is the best-known of the announced candidates, and William S. Shepard never stopped campaigning after winning the GOP gubernatorial nomination in 1990.

Most attention, though, is fixed on the half-dozen Democrats expressing varying degrees of interest. None of them has caught fire. The public wants a change in Annapolis, but does that mean a change of faces, a change of party or revolutionary changes in running government? Candidates are groping for the answer. The one who comes closest to grasping the public's real message could be the candidate anointed by Marylanders in 1994.

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