An afternoon of crabs and politics Schaefer's party draws officials, hopefuls

September 12, 1993|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,Staff Writer

HAGERSTOWN -- They came to talk. Which, after all, is what they do best, particularly in the year before a statewide election.

OK, they came for the 250 bushels of crabs, the 3,000 pounds of pit beef and 75 kegs of beer, too.

But mostly, they paid $50 a head to kibitz, to see and be seen.

The loyalists. The hangers-on. The b'hoys and g'hirls. The would-bes and wannabes. The worker bees.

More than 3,000 of them assembled in this Washington County hub yesterday for the seventh annual William Donald Schaefer Crab Feast, gossiping and schmoozing with Maryland's government and political hierarchy on a picture-perfect late summer afternoon.

While the potential for a little early politicking was tremendous, with the moneyed business supporters of Mr. Schaefer paying for many tables, the fete was more a gathering of the governor's clan and extended family.

But there were the seemingly ever-present candidates -- Democrats and Republicans, statewide and local -- combing the crowd, looking like not-so-thoroughbreds, posturing and preening in the paddock.

"Whaddaya think of Mickey's chances?" would occasionally be raised, referring to Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg's early bid for governor.

"Ya think Schmoke can beat Bobby Neall in the general?" would surface, offering speculation about how Baltimore's Democratic Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke would fare against the GOP Anne Arundel County Executive Robert R. Neall in a thus far mythical 1994 race for the governor's mansion.

Mr. Schmoke did not post. Nor did Mr. Steinberg, who was not expected because of the rift between him and Mr. Schaefer.

But Mr. Neall did.

"I took a wrong turn on my way to Antietam," he said.

His toughest competition for leading the GOP ticket, Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, the 2nd District Republican congresswoman who has been playing the "Maybe I will run; maybe I won't" game with the party, was a no-show.

But another aspirant was in circulation: Dark-horse Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Mary H. Boergers, the Montgomery County state senator who is running hard enough to be taken seriously for a possible lieutenant governor's slot.

"I've gone to the Louis Goldstein school of politics: Wherever there are two or three Democrats gathered, I'll be there," Ms. Boergers said, referring to the state comptroller, who never met a voter he didn't like.

So they talked and listened and shook hands and talked some more for four hours in the breeze at the rolling Black Rock Golf Course, where a huge tent gave the event a carnival-like air.

"You could not have picked a better spot than right here," Mr. Schaefer said.

The crab feast, which was moved this year to Western Maryland from Chestertown on the Eastern Shore, is basically a fund-raiser that benefits state charities through the William Donald Schaefer Civic Fund, a nonprofit organization set up by the governor's friends.

In a rare public appearance, Hilda Mae Snoops, the governor's longtime companion, presented a $2,500 check from the fund to the Children's Village, a private safety-oriented training center for kids in Hagerstown.

The Civic Fund also donated $3,500 yesterday to CASA (Center Against Spousal Abuse), another $1,000 to the Washington County Historical Society; $5,000 to Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Central Maryland; and $1,500 to the Washington County Community Action Council.

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