Angelos must choose between governor's race, other interests

March 06, 1994|By Robert Timberg | Robert Timberg,Sun Staff Writer

Encouraged by Gov. William Donald Schaefer and his political brain trust, Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos has become intrigued by the prospect of running for governor and is giving the idea serious thought.

The multimillionaire team owner, according to sources close to Mr. Schaefer and Mr. Angelos, would like to enter the crowded Democratic field, but must decide whether he is willing to give up or take time away from his current enterprises.

What does not seem in dispute is that Mr. Angelos, a former Baltimore city councilman who ran unsuccessfully for council president and mayor in the 1960s, has a desire to re-enter the political arena.

"If this were a year, two years from now, he'd be in immediately," said one well-placed source. "Because that's not the case, there's a lot of uncertainty to it."

Repeated attempts to reach Mr. Angelos for comment on the governor's race were unsuccessful.

In addition to owning the Orioles since last October and participating in their management, Mr. Angelos in recent weeks has been the governor's point man in seeking a National Football League franchise for Baltimore.

He is also the sole proprietor of a thriving law firm that specializes in suits against asbestos companies whose products have been blamed for the illnesses and deaths of thousands of factory workers.

In assessing a race for the state's highest office, Mr. Angelos must take into consideration the conflicts of interest he might encounter as governor because he owns the primary tenant of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, a facility owned and operated by the state.

It is one measure of Mr. Angelos' interest in the race that he has, sources said, directed his personal lawyer, George Stamas, to look into potential conflicts and determine the extent to which they might be an obstacle to running.

Though the thought of the heavily engaged Mr. Angelos seeking the governorship strikes some as far-fetched, sources say he does not dismiss the idea when asked.

Instead, his standard response has been to tell his questioners that he has not made up his mind.

The governor and others favoring an Angelos candidacy believe the Orioles owner possesses a number of attributes that would make him a major candidate:

* Despite his political involvement in the 1960s, Mr. Angelos would be viewed as a fresh face in the political arena, one with enormous name identification.

* He is a highly successful, self-made man who would appeal to many in the Baltimore business community, especially the newly rich and successful, although perhaps less to the old-money crowd.

* Through his law practice and earlier political outings, he has long and deep ties to organized labor in the Baltimore area, providing him with a natural base of support.

He might not have the same appeal in the populous Washington suburbs, where many legislators and their constituents root for the Redskins and want bond money that was earmarked for a Baltimore football stadium used for school and prison construction.

Mr. Angelos' champions recognize the difficulty of garnering votes in suburban Washington, but feel that obstacle can be overcome by a judicious choice of running mate.

Meetings with lawmakers

Mr. Angelos, 64, has been taking steps that keep his options open, including dining in Annapolis with small groups of legislators during the current General Assembly session, ostensibly to discuss the elusive NFL franchise, and making appearances at events that draw a political crowd.

For example, he has agreed to be the speaker, nominally in his role as Orioles owner, at a breakfast that the governor regularly gives for corporate leaders and political allies.

The group of about 100 meets privately about eight times a year. On this occasion, thanks to Mr. Angelos, it is to convene at the Camden Yards stadium on March 20.

A few days later, on March 24, he is to be the speaker at the annual dinner of Senates Past, a fraternity of former state senators, many of whom retain political influence.

Democratic field surveyed

Sources say that Mr. Angelos' major difficulty in reaching a decision is simply finding time to focus on the matter because of all the other issues competing for his attention.

Mr. Angelos' name quietly surfaced as a possible gubernatorial prospect in late January after a dinner meeting presided over by the governor at Cantina D'Italia, a restaurant outside Annapolis.

Mr. Schaefer's dinner companions included Peter F. O'Malley, a longtime Prince George's County political leader; Theodore G. Venetoulis, a political insider and one-time Baltimore County executive; and Hal Donofrio, a Baltimore advertising executive close to Mr. Schaefer and Mr. Angelos.

At that meeting, the Democratic field was surveyed and found wanting by most, if not all, of the participants. Discussion shifted to Stuart Bainum Jr., a former legislator and wealthy Montgomery County businessman. Near the end of the conversation, Mr. Angelos' name was raised.

Angelos told of talks

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