Fund-raiser to focus on Taylor's future

April 27, 1994|By Robert Timberg and Frank Langfitt | Robert Timberg and Frank Langfitt,Sun Staff Writers

With a powerful boost from his friend the governor, Del. Casper R. Taylor Jr. has planned a gilt-edged statewide fund-raiser that he hopes will help secure his position as speaker of the Maryland House.

Mr. Taylor is expected to run for the House seat he has held for the past two decades. But there has been speculation that he also is looking to the results of the fund-raiser to determine if he has sufficient support to mount a campaign for governor despite what would be a late start.

Mr. Taylor, who completed a seemingly successful first term as speaker this month, hopes to raise at least $250,000 at a fund-raiser on May 23 at the Omni Hotel in Baltimore, according to several political sources.

The Allegany County Democrat plans to use part of the money for his re-election race, but sources said he plans to funnel much of it into the campaigns of House candidates likely to support his re-election as speaker.

"Clearly it helps solidify his return as speaker next year," said a source close to Gov. William Donald Schaefer, honorary chairman of the forthcoming "Tribute to Taylor." "He can lock up a little bit of loyalty."

Mr. Taylor confirmed as much, saying he would use the money he doesn't need for his race to campaign for others.

"I mean to be active with my membership in the House and try to help people," he said. Asked if that included donating money to other campaigns, he replied, "Yeah."

Mr. Taylor said he did not consider helping others fund their campaigns as being tantamount to purchasing support. "I don't think it's buying allegiance," he said. "I think it is bonding. It is building a team, if you will, a network that brings together the kind of bonding that is very important as you go into a new cycle."

The General Assembly's other presiding officer, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., meanwhile, is sitting on a campaign war chest that totaled a staggering $382,910 as of November, according to campaign finance reports on file at the state Election Board.

The records show he transferred $47,000 to other Democratic campaigns in the 1990 election cycle.

Most of Mr. Miller's campaign kitty, $324,055, was raised at a Nov. 30, 1989, statewide fund-raiser at Baltimore's Stouffer Harborplace Hotel, a model for Mr. Taylor's event next month.

Mr. Miller said he did not know how much he might spend on his own race or contribute to those of other Senate candidates. "I haven't gotten into the campaign mode as of this date," said the Prince George's Democrat.

Mr. Miller said he has never had to buy allegiance from other lawmakers, citing his eight unopposed elections to the Senate presidency. He did, however, make it clear that he intends to help at least some fellow Senate candidates this fall.

"I'll be prepared to assist in any manner possible that I can," Mr. Miller said.

The average cost for state Senate races in 1990 was $79,426, and successful House campaigns $35,743, according to Deborah Povich, executive director of Common Cause/Maryland, a self-proclaimed citizens' lobby.

The governor played host to an upscale breakfast last Thursday at the Sheraton Inner Harbor Hotel to kick off the Taylor fund-raising operation.

About 170 people -- business and labor leaders, as well as lobbyists -- were asked to lend their support in selling the $200 tickets. A few participants later wondered aloud about its potential as a launching pad for a gubernatorial bid.

"It certainly has the ability to turn into something else fairly quickly," said one of those who attended the breakfast, asking like most others interviewed for this story not to be identified.

Said a source close to Mr. Taylor, "I don't imagine he'll run for governor, but this is one way to test the waters."

Mr. Schaefer, who cannot succeed himself, has been looking for what he considers a worthy successor.

He has encouraged at least three Democrats and one Republican to enter the race for governor, but his press secretary, Page W. Boinest, discouraged speculation that his involvement with Mr. Taylor was more of the same.

"The governor is a big supporter of the speaker, he worked well with him during the last session and thinks he's a strong leader for the House of Delegates," she said.

Mr. Taylor, for his part, did not flatly reject the idea of seeking the state's highest office. "I don't think any of us in this profession ever rule anything out," he said.

Last week's event was particularly noteworthy for the political clout and bulging billfolds of most of those in attendance.

"These were big-time heavy hitters," said one source, "very high level power brokers in the Baltimore metropolitan area who know how to raise money."

The letterhead for the "Tribute to Taylor" gala lists a blue-chip roster of co-chairs, most long-time Schaefer supporters.

They include Mathias J. DeVito, chairman of the Rouse Co.; Frederick D'Alessio, president of Bell Atlantic-Maryland; James R. "Ron" DeJulius, business manager of Local 37, Union of Operating Engineers; Edward A. Mohler, president, Maryland and D.C. AFL-CIO; H&S Bakery President John Paterakis; poultry mogul Frank Perdue and his wife, Mitzi; and Marsha Jews, wife of William Jews, president and chief executive officer of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Maryland.

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