Shrinking governor's race

September 22, 1993

Kurt L. Schmoke's announced withdrawal from the gubernatorial race further shrinks the number of candidates for the state's top elected post (Attorney General J. Joseph Curran withdrew a week ago from the field) and puts the spotlight firmly on the three remaining Democrats and the four Republicans still in the race.

The Baltimore mayor's decision to seek re-election instead of the governorship could prove a big break for Prince George's County Executive Parris N. Glendening, since his base of support among black voters in his home county had been deeply undercut by Mr. Schmoke's exploratory campaign efforts. Yet Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg could benefit, too, since he is the lone Baltimore-area Democrat left.

Only state Sen. Mary Boergers of Montgomery County may not have gained from the Schmoke withdrawal. Her candidacy's success depends, in part, on a crowded Democratic field and a splintered vote, something that now seems unlikely.

The mayor's decision to seek re-election may also play a role in the Republican primary. Both Rep. Helen Bentley and Anne Arundel County Executive Robert Neall had been expecting Mr. Schmoke to be the Democratic winner. He was viewed as the most vulnerable nominee, with little support in the suburbs or in rural parts of Maryland. Now that Mr. Schmoke has withdrawn, Mrs. Bentley and Mr. Neall will have to reassess their chances. The other two Republican candidates, William S. Shepard and Del. Ellen R. Sauerbrey, appear unaffected by the mayor's announcement.

How Baltimore City votes in the primary and general elections for governor now becomes pivotal. Without the mayor in the race, the city is up for grabs. All the candidates must re-think their suburban strategies, since the biggest bloc of undecided voters will now lie in Baltimore. This will force candidates to focus attention on the plight of the city.

By late fall, the field of Republicans may shrink to two or three as Mrs. Bentley and Mr. Neall make their decisions. Then the horse-race phase will be behind us and candidates can start talking about issues -- something that has gotten scant attention so far. Maryland remains stuck in the economic doldrums, with new government deficits looming on the horizon and unanswered questions in the areas of education, law enforcement and social services. It's time candidates started talking about their specific stands on these issues. What will win this election is concrete suggestions for change, not just sloganeering.

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