Schmoke is out of governor's race Mayor's goal is completing projects in city

September 21, 1993|By Michael A. Fletcher | Michael A. Fletcher,Staff Writer Staff writers John W. Frece, Eric Siegel and Sandy Banisky contributed to this article.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke yesterday dramatically altered the shape of next year's governor's race by abandoning his plans to run. The mayor explained that he has unfinished business in Baltimore.

Mr. Schmoke said he thought he could win the race for governor, but in a stunning announcement, he said he wanted to remain mayor, mainly to protect programs initiated during his administration.

Mr. Schmoke's decision not to run for governor profoundly alters the race, because he was the front-runner in early polls. His defection was seen as giving the biggest boost to Prince George's County Executive Parris N. Glendening, who appeals to many of the same voters as the mayor.

Mr. Schmoke said he wants to remain mayor to see through such projects as the privatization of nine city schools, the Christopher Columbus Center, the Inner Harbor East development and the effort to revive the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood with a variety of housing and social programs.

"While we're moving in the right direction much more needs to be done," he said. "I believe that it will take committed leadership. One of the things that marks our programs is that these are works in progress. We are not ready to declare victory."

Mr. Schmoke's decision to run for a third term in 1995 sets up a political confrontation with City Council President Mary Pat Clarke, who last week said she also plans to run for mayor.

Mr. Schmoke, 43, had explored the idea of running for governor for several months. He and his advisers visited every corner of the state, meeting with elected officials and small groups of voters in an effort to get a sense of the issues. As recently as Sunday, he was in Silver Spring speaking before a Democratic club.

He said he was well-received, but that he felt he should remain mayor. "Some of these things you can't define," he said. "You just know it when you feel it."

All of the major candidates in the race claimed they would be the beneficiaries of Mr. Schmoke's decision.

"Obviously, we're happy," said Mr. Glendening.

Mr. Glendening stood to lose much of the black vote in his Prince George's County base if Mr. Schmoke had gotten into the race. He also would have been hard-pressed to make big inroads in Baltimore with the mayor still in the race. In addition, he knew his positions on a number of campaign issues -- and even his academic style -- mirrored those of Mr. Schmoke, putting them in competition for the same voters.

"This probably bodes well for Parris," said Wayne Curry, an attorney and Democratic candidate for executive in Prince George's County. "There are a lot of people who think like one another in Baltimore and Prince George's County."

With the mayor out of the race, Mr. Glendening essentially ignored the candidacy of state Sen. Mary H. Boergers, a Montgomery Democrat, and characterized the remaining contest as a two-person campaign between himself and Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg. He said that battle would be between the insiders -- represented by Mr. Steinberg -- and outsiders, represented by himself.

'The new direction'

"I represent the new direction -- the forces of both change and the future," Mr. Glendening said. "I say to people, 'If you're really happy with the way the state is being run, you should go with the people who have been running it.' "

Ms. Boergers said the Schmoke decision opens the way for her to be governor.

"He would have come in perceived as the front-runner," Ms. Boergers said. "Now the race seems more of a toss-up."

Mr. Steinberg said Mr. Schmoke's decision "has no bearing on my campaign" because he said whoever is best on issues was likely to win regardless of the field.

Mr. Schmoke's decision not to run leaves Mr. Steinberg, a former state Senate president from Pikesville, as the only current Democratic gubernatorial candidate from the Baltimore region. Two weeks ago, Baltimore Democrat J. Joseph Curran Jr. dropped out of the race to run for re-election as Maryland's attorney general.

Three Republicans are in the race: House Minority Leader Ellen R. Sauerbrey of Baltimore County; Anne Arundel County Executive Robert R. Neall; and 1990 Republican gubernatorial nominee William S. Shepard of Montgomery County, a retired foreign service officer.

Second District Rep. Helen Delich Bentley also is still considering a race for governor.

Republican Party insiders had actually looked forward to a Schmoke candidacy, believing that a GOP candidate from the suburbs would be strong against a Democrat from Baltimore.

"It looked pretty clear that he would win the Democratic nomination, but I did not believe he would win the general election," Ms. Sauerbrey said. "I know he spent a lot of dollars on polling and probably came to the same conclusion."

Ms. Sauerbrey, a self-styled conservative, said that Mr. Schmoke would have been hard-pressed to defend his record as mayor. Kurt Schmoke is very liberal and he has a tough record to defend in terms of his accomplishments as mayor of Baltimore City," she said.

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