Two covet Bentley's present job

THE POLITICAL GAME

August 25, 1993|By C. Fraser Smith | C. Fraser Smith,Staff Writer

Among the most avid supporters of Helen Delich Bentley's gubernatorial aspirations are Baltimore County delegates, Gerry Brewster and Bob Ehrlich.

But you could say they've got an ulterior motive: They want the job she's got now, U.S. representative from Maryland's 2nd District.

With the prospect of an opening, both men are accepting every speaking invitation that comes along, sharpening their understanding of federal rules on campaign fund raising and honing their respective messages.

They betray a decided impatience.

"A lot of people encourage me to seek the seat no matter what she does," says Mr. Brewster, a Democrat.

Others suspect he would be reluctant to risk losing his seat in the General Assembly unless the congressional office is open.

If he ran in 1996, a so-called free-shot year, he could lose and still be a member of the General Assembly.

Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican, almost certainly would not consider a primary against Mrs. Bentley, the top elected Marylander in his party. But he hopes it won't be necessary.

With the prospect of a strong GOP ticket, he thinks 1994 will be an election year like no other in recent memory for Maryland Republicans.

"It's the year to run," he says.

Whether or not 1994 is their year, Mr. Ehrlich and Mr. Brewster represent a new generation of office-seekers in Maryland.

As usual, pressure from below can help to bring on change in political life.

Others may well enter the 2nd District contest if Mrs. Bentley decides to run for governor, but Mr. Ehrlich and Mr. Brewster would be regarded as among the leading contenders.

They are quite similar in background and training: both are lawyers; both went to the Gilman School and Princeton University; both are legislators; both are 35.

In coming weeks and years, they will be going to many of the same people looking for campaign support, financial and otherwise.

"We could put mutual friends in a difficult position," Mr. Brewster says.

"Most would probably end up contributing to both of us."

Mrs. Bentley, meanwhile, has already helped both her potential successors.

By delaying her decision for so long, she has created an opportunity for them.

"If she had announced a re-election effort, no one would be wondering about the seat. Now people are more eager to talk to us," Mr. Brewster says.

He's encouraging them to think beyond that.

"Helen has done a very good job over the years, but a lot of people believe in term limits and there comes a time when you want to consider other people. She's 70 years old. There comes a time when you want to thank someone for their service," he says.

It truly was a whopper!

He may be down in the polls. He may be headed for his last year in office. But William Donald Schaefer is still the governor.

He knows because state officials remain feverishly solicitous of his well-being. Wherever he goes, he says, workers assigned to brief him or guide him or explain something to him fawn over him as if he were newly inaugurated.

In a speech to the Maryland Association of Counties last week, Mr. Schaefer used a fish story to make the point. He headed out on a little expedition along the Potomac River in the care of workers from the Department of Natural Resources.

Apparently they were not aware that Mr. Schaefer is an avid angler.

"They carried me out to the boat," he said. "They put a life preserver around my waist. They put me in the middle of the seat.

"I appreciated that.

"Then they baited my hook. They threw out the line and handed me the pole.

"I appreciated that.

"Pretty soon there was a fish on the other end. They grabbed the pole and reeled it in. They took the fish off the hook."

By then, the appreciation level was falling.

"I began to wonder what I was doing there," the governor said.

On a subsequent trip, he prevailed on his hosts to let him do a little of the work. Within minutes, he said, he had reeled in a fish larger than the span of his arms.

Asked if this was true, a source loyal to the governor said the fish was as big as any they had ever seen or even heard of, a real beauty, too big for the gubernatorial boat, bigger than . . .

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