Glendening is wooing Baltimore Democrats City up for grabs in governor's race

October 10, 1993|By Michael A. Fletcher | Michael A. Fletcher,Staff Writer

Prince George's County Executive Parris N. Glendening was at Poplar Hill's First Christian Church last week doing what he has been doing regularly of late: introducing himself to Baltimore voters and explaining why he wants to be governor.

The 51-year-old political science professor and third-term county executive offered the 75 political activists in the room his basic stump speech.

It touts his record on increasing funding for education, creating jobs and fighting crime. If elected governor, the Prince George's Democrat said, he could do the same for Maryland.

Mr. Glendening finished the talk with a message tailored for his Baltimore audience. "The last thing that is of importance is where a person is born," he said. "The thing that is important is their vision for the state and their track record."

That message sounds different from the one that Mr. Glendening has sent in parts of Maryland where the prevailing notion is that Baltimore unfairly dominates state politics. In those places, he previously has made it clear that he thought geography should be a factor when Maryland elects a governor in 1994.

Last year, for instance, Mr. Glendening told the Charles County Chamber of Commerce: "We must have a governor from this region. We don't get our fair share [from Annapolis]."

Asked about the apparent contradiction, Mr. Glendening said that, taken in context, his message is consistent across the state.

"The whole issue is one of fairness," he said, adding that no jurisdiction in Maryland should benefit at the expense of another. "What I want to do is bring the state together."

His aides also noted that Mr. Glendening's earlier statements came in the midst of a cut in state education aid that severely hurt Prince George's, while hurting Baltimore much less.

Those once-hot budget battles have since cooled. Perhaps more important, two Baltimore residents -- Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. -- recently took themselves out of the governor's race.

As a result, Baltimore's 285,000 registered Democrats are perceived to be up for grabs in next September's party primary. And Mr. Glendening is courting them.

"When the city is suffering, the whole state is suffering," he said after his recent speech at the church to members of a local Democratic club. Baltimore gets no more than it deserves from state government, Mr. Glendening said. "The needs are very, very great here."

Clearly, Baltimore now looms large in Mr. Glendening's campaign strategy.

Last week's appearance was among dozens of Baltimore-area events featuring him in recent weeks, and the pace promises to continue.

Mr. Glendening is scheduled for more than 20 coffees, dinners or personal meetings in and around the city this month, as well as a large fund-raiser here.

His past statements aside, Mr. Glendening is confident that his message will sell as well in the Baltimore area as elsewhere in the state.

"The issues I talk about are crucial to Baltimore," he said. "Jobs, education and [strategies to battle] crime and violence are absolutely crucial."

The Glendening message is resonating among some people previously poised to back Mr. Schmoke for governor.

City Comptroller Jacqueline F. McLean moved to support Mr. Glendening after the mayor, the front runner in most early polls, said last month that he would not run for governor.

"I think he will pick up more support once people have an opportunity to focus in on what his platform is going to be," Mrs. McLean said. "He is strong on economic development."

While the other Democratic hopefuls -- Lt. Gov. Melvin A. "Mickey" Steinberg and state Sen. Mary H. Boergers of Montgomery County -- are bound to reap some benefits from Mr. Schmoke's decision not to run, Mr. Glendening's supporters argue that he and the mayor share similar philosophies.

"I believe Mayor Schmoke and Mr. Glendening share views on many issues," said Lalit H. Gadhia, a member of Mr. Schmoke's campaign finance committee and treasurer of one of Mr. Glendening's campaign organizations.

"Now there is an opportunity for people who share the views of both men to support Mr. Glendening for governor."

Mr. Glendening's pitch in Baltimore -- and throughout Maryland -- grows from his record as county executive in Prince George's, a large county that has become more high-tech, racially diverse and upscale during his 11-year tenure.

He says that change is not merely a consequence of the county's proximity to Washington. He says it reflects his administration's efforts.

In the past decade, Prince George's County attracted 108,000 jobs, while Maryland lost jobs.

That county's median family income has jumped from $29,000 to $53,000.

Spending on schools has increased dramatically there, and the county ranks sixth in Maryland in school spending.

Also, the overall crime rate fell 7 percent in Prince George's between 1981 and 1992, and violent crime has decreased over the past two years.

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