Maryland Politics A-bubbling

September 09, 1993

Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr.'s withdrawal from the gubernatorial race on the same day Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and Gov. William Donald Schaefer were staging a love-in at the Inner Harbor adds froth to the Democratic political pot. Mr. Curran's decision to seek re-election to his present office was no surprise; his candidacy was going nowhere. But the Schmoke-Schaefer rapprochement is something else -- a carefully staged affair serving the ambitions of both.

Mr. Schaefer is not a man to have a love-hate relationship simultaneously; rather his feelings pro and con about certain personalities are sharply sequential. He has been sniping at Mr. Schmoke since the latter had the nerve to move into the mayor's office that has always been Mr. Schaefer's favorite perch. But if Mr. Schaefer indulges fantasies about a return to City Hall in 1995, a certain friendship with Mr. Schmoke would help.

So his on-camera, arm-in-arm stroll with the present mayor near the scene of Schaefer-era triumphs was no accident. He had, after all, recently withdrawn his opposition to Mr. Schmoke's needle-exchange idea and signaled an identity of views on educational funding reform. If there was a wistful note all around, it was the thought of six years wasted when these two ultimate Baltimoreans could have been working together.

The Inner Harbor tableau spurs speculation that Mr. Schaefer might even quietly support Mr. Schmoke if the mayor finally decides to run for governor against such Democratic primary opponents as Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg, Prince George's County Executive Parris N. Glendening and state Sen. Mary H. Boergers, a longshot. The governor's rift with Mr. Steinberg, even though they tap similar political pools, seems irreparable. And the "suburban" campaign Mr. Glendening contemplates is not likely to please Mr. Schaefer.

For Mr. Schmoke, decision time is coming. Even if he figures he can win the Democratic primary, he has to worry about strong Republican opposition.

Mr. Curran's re-election as attorney general is by no means a sure thing. He first has to beat former Deputy Attorney General Eleanor Carey, who ran a close race in 1986, and Patrick J. Smith, a Rockville lawyer active in Paul Tsongas's victory in the 1992 Maryland presidential primary. Even if he gets the Democratic nomination, Mr. Curran will encounter former U.S. Attorney Richard Bennett, a Republican, in the general election.

Tuesday's great coincidence -- the Curran pull-out and the Schmoke-Schaefer get-together on downtown security and economic development -- both scrambles and clarifies. And more is sure to come, a process guaranteed to be entertaining.

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