The Schmofer Phenomenon

September 14, 1993

Whether you accept the political or the non-political version of the rapprochement between William Donald Schaefer and Kurt L. Schmoke, you have to agree a more friendly relationship between the governor of Maryland and the mayor of Baltimore is devoutly to be wished. For more than six years these two politicians have been bickering to the detriment of all concerned. If they are now ready to be pals, let us rejoice.

It's fun to speculate Mr. Schaefer longs to return to City Hall in the 1995 election, and needs to get Mr. Schmoke out of the way by elevating him right into the governor's chair. It's equally entertaining to figure that Mr. Schmoke has ascertained that Mr. Schaefer's support in next year's statewide race for governor would be a net plus, despite his negatives, and well worth the wooing. If these suppositions are correct, it made eminent good sense for this unlikely twosome to tour the Baltimore waterfront last week as cameras whirred.

It's not so much fun but a lot more uplifting to reckon that not a single political thought occurred to the Schmoke-Schaefer combine -- The Schmofer Phenomenon -- as it contemplated economic projects to renew the Baltimore renaissance. If this conjecture is correct, selfless concern for the city and state prevailed last week over all else.

On the grave matter of fun or uplift, Maryland voters will have to make up their own minds. Publicly, both the governor's office and the mayor's entourage are wholeheartedly on the side of uplift. But talk to some of their associates and what Frank Kent (a Sun columnist of yesteryear) called "the great game of politics" makes a grand entry.

The governor's tactics are variously described as a move to gut Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg and Prince George's County Executive Parris N. Glendening, two politicians he dislikes even more than Mr. Schmoke. Or that he figures he is personally so NTC unpopular his embrace of the mayor will only hurt Mr. Schmoke. Or that he can do well in his last legislative session only in league with the city.

As for the mayor, he needs statewide outreach if he wishes to contemplate a bid for the governorship next year. Since there are so few politicians out there in the boonies eager to associate themselves with the state's troubled metropolitan center, why not cozy up to a governor who supposedly stands tall for the entire state, the Eastern Shore notwithstanding? Besides, the city desperately needs more state money, and Mr. Schaefer's help will be essential in Annapolis early next year.

The mayor and the governor really have a lot in common, not least the first three letters of their last names. So let The Schmofer Phenomenon prosper and enliven the Maryland scene.

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