And Then There Were Three. . .

September 26, 1993

On Labor Day, the race for Maryland's Democratic gubernatorial nomination contained a half-dozen candidates. A whiz-bang campaign seemed imminent. But now that half-dozen has dwindled to a lackluster threesome. What had the looks of a colorful and crowded run for the governor's mansion could become a dreary affair.

Turning the voters on might prove difficult for this trio: Lt. Gov. Melvin Steinberg, Prince George's County Executive Parris Glendening and state Sen. Mary Boergers. They are hardly charismatic. Mr. Steinberg is an impish jokester who has trouble delivering a coherent presentation on a single subject; Mr. Glendening sternly addresses a campaign audience as though it were a graduate class in public administration, and Mrs. Boergers, the most spirited and forceful of the three, has never run for countywide or statewide office and has yet to inspire voters.

With Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, Attorney General J. Joseph Curran and Dr. Neil Solomon out of the gubernatorial race, the remaining Democrats have to revamp their strategies and focus on issues they think will catch the attention of Marylanders. After all, the Sept. 13 primary is less than a year away.

Mr. Glendening stresses his economic development successes in Prince George's over the past 12 years, the bi-racial harmony in governing that county and improvements in the local schools and in the war against crime. Count on him to emphasize job-creation in Maryland as a cornerstone of his campaign pitch.

Ms. Boergers, a Montgomery County lawmaker, needs to find a way to erase her image as a minor-league contender trying to take advantage of her gender. She wants to persuade alienated voters she is a knowledgeble state legislator but one who has remained outside the establishment in Annapolis for the last 12 years -- an insider's outsider. She is promising to bring a new, spunky style of leadership, one with a woman's touch.

As for Mr. Steinberg, his campaign agenda remains a mystery -- he seems to be for everything. He must erase his image as an old-fashioned political deal-maker and issues straddler. He badly needs to express a clear vision with a concrete agenda. So far that hasn't happened. There is the added problem of explaining his linkage to -- and subsequent alienation from -- the unpopular Schaefer administration. That won't be easy.

If these three musketeers fail to excite the public, other politicians or business leaders could step forward and enter the Democratic primary. The image of two-term Gov. Harry R. Hughes -- viewed by virtually everyone in 1978 as a prohibitive long-shot -- is a vivid reminder to Messrs. Glendening and Steinberg and Mrs. Boergers that they had better get their campaigns in high gear soon. Otherwise, bored Democratic voters may start looking elsewhere for an acceptable alternative.

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