If money talks, East Baltimore must be saying 'Miedusiewski'

THE POLITICAL GAME

October 06, 1993|By C. Fraser Smith | C. Fraser Smith,Staff Writer

State Sen. American Joe Miedusiewski, amiable bar owner and buttoned-down scion of East Baltimore clubhouse politics, may run for governor. Friends in organized labor asked him to think about running for lieutenant governor -- but he thought, 'Why settle for second?' "

The word got around in Mr. Miedusiewski's neighborhood. On his way out of church, a supporter who had heard a rumor he is running offered him a $1,000 campaign contribution. In a convenience store for a cup of decaf, he saw another encouraging friend pull out the checkbook.

"People were stopping me on the street, offering to give me money. It really got my attention," he says.

With 19 years experience in the General Assembly, Mr. Miedusiewski is not naive. He knows how many $1,000 contributors he'd need to make the race. "It would be a total shift of gears," he says.

But he sees no current candidate declaring sufficient commitment to Baltimore.

SG If he is really wrestling with a political career choice -- and not

simply enjoying an ego boost from his friends in labor -- Mr. Miedusiewski is in good company.

The official candidate filing deadline doesn't arrive until well into 1994, but the requirements of modern campaigning, especially for governor, demand early decisions.

Mr. Miedusiewski wonders if it isn't already too late for him to raise the money he'd need, because many big givers may already have committed the legal limit of their resources. So the pressure is on and not just for American Joe.

A decision is demanded from Helen Delich Bentley, for example.

Her brothers and sisters in the Maryland GOP keep asking what she's running for in 1994 and Mrs. Bentley just smiles her engaging smile and says, Sphinx-like, "I'm running. I'm running."

The smile is infuriating to some in her party who think the 2nd District congresswoman is toying with the party's chances of winning big next year. The party doesn't need division, and Mrs. Bentley's temporizing pushes in the wrong direction, according to this view.

She surely will run for something in 1994.

A run for re-election remains the most likely possibility, which is not to diminish her potential as a candidate for some other office. They don't call her the Fighting Lady for nothing: She would be a contender.

But how close would she be at the start to what every politician wants in his or her heart: a sure thing? And what would she be risking? A chart in The Sun several weeks ago pointed out that Mrs. Bentley, like the other members of Congress, controls a payroll of more than half a million dollars, including her own salary.

Moreover, like Mr. Miedusiewski, she likes what she does.

Others are dealing with the same sorts of questions.

Gerry Brewster, a state delegate, covets Mrs. Bentley's seat in Congress. Would he dare to run against her this year? The betting is against that decision, and for a more prudent, bide-your-time approach.

About these same sorts of ruminations you could ask J. Joseph Curran Jr., Maryland's attorney general.

Having delayed a decision about running for governor, he found himself trying to sit on two stools and in danger of slipping through.

He wasn't moving up much in the gubernatorial speculation and two strong challengers declared for attorney general.

His dalliance with the governor's race may have given him a bracing primary against two challengers who might not have entered the race if they thought he would be there to oppose them.

Others may dither, but Republican Ellen Sauerbrey, the House of Delegates minority leader, is running hard for governor and tackling controversial issues at full speed.

Her campaign announced yesterday that she has been named to the board of Americans for School Choice, a national group that would allow parents to chose the schools their children attend.

The idea is to create a market situation in which schools get better or lose their students to schools that do. Parents could choose parochial schools and receive vouchers equivalent to the cost of a public education.

Ms. Sauerbrey plans to participate in daylong School Choice activities in Washington tomorrow along with board members Lamar Alexander, the former education secretary and governor of Tennessee; Connie Mack, the Florida senator; and Roy Innis, chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality.

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