A marriage made at City Hall

May 05, 1994|By Frank A. DeFilippo

MAYOR Kurt L. Schmoke's endorsement of Prince George's County Executive Parris Glendening has as much to do with Mr. Schmoke's campaign for mayor next year as it does with Mr. Glendening's race for governor in November.

The blurring of the two campaigns is as intricate as an artichoke. For openers, Mr. Schmoke's imprimatur unites the two campaigns in a way that allows the mayor to begin organizing his own campaign nearly a year before his scheduled showdown with City Council President Mary Pat Clarke. And it does so at Mr. Glendening's expense, although the county executive will enjoy many happy returns as well.

By negotiating the installation of his political pit bull, Larry S. Gibson, as Mr. Glendening's city campaign manager, Mr. Schmoke will be able to test drive his organization during Mr. Glendening's campaign and have it tuned, oiled and ready to go when his turn arrives. Mr. Gibson also runs Mr. Schmoke's campaigns.

The coming together also reunites several political apparatchiks from the 1992 Maryland campaign of President Bill Clinton. Mr. Gibson was Mr. Clinton's campaign director while Emily Smith, Mr. Glendening's campaign manager, was Mr. Clinton's campaign manager.

To be sure, under Mr. Gibson's direction, it'll be Mr. Schmoke's organization, to the extent that one exists, to which the bulk of Mr. Glendening's attention will be directed as well as his largess in the way of walk-around money and headquarters expenses. Simply put, Mr. Glendening will be paying the bills to keep Mr. Schmoke's workers active and happy.

In addition to a campaign-within-a-campaign, the Schmoke-Glendening union will also enable the Schmoke-Gibson alliance to assert its influence on the election of General Assembly members this year and City Council members next year -- again at Mr. Glendening's expense.

So in a single masterstroke that would have been envied in a Medici palace or even the Trenton Democratic Club, Mr. Schmoke (or Mr. Gibson) has been able to manipulate the calendar so that this year's state elections are a down payment on next year's municipal race.

The marriage that was made at City Hall comes after a two-year courtship that began with Mr. Glendening's determination to get Mr. Schmoke one way or the other -- either as his running mate for lieutenant governor or at least his public endorsement.

The City Hall endorsement also demonstrates Mr. Glendening's methodical organizing prowess in lining up a steady drumbeat of testimonials that included Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-5th), the Fraternal Order of Police and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Mr. Schmoke's pronouncement that Mr. Glendening is "somebody I believe will be a partner in progress with Baltimore" may sound like smarmy campaign sloganeering, and to some extent it is. But it also measures the new reality of Maryland's political map. For the sucking sound you hear is political power slipping away from Baltimore to the populous suburbs around Washington. The Schmoke-Glendening communion is a pragmatic handshake across the two regions between the city's first elected black mayor and the man who would be the first governor from Prince George's County since Oden Bowie in 1867.

In several ways, the two jurisdictions vaguely resemble each other. Both are noted for their roughneck organization politics. Baltimore is 60 percent black; Prince George's is a tad over 50 percent black, although the two black constituencies are quite dissimilar. The county is host to one of the wealthiest black enclaves in America; Baltimore, by contrast, is one of the state's poorest jurisdictions. And Prince George's is undergoing what sociologists like to call "urbanization" -- the problems suburbanites fled in the cities are only a hot step behind in the county.

But the endorsement of Mr. Glendening by Mr. Schmoke is about more than demographics and the bonhomie between a Harvard lawyer and a University of Maryland Ph.D. It's about power politics.

Mr. Schmoke was briefly -- very briefly -- a contender for governor himself. For Mr. Gibson and company, the next best thing to having a governor of your own is having your hooks in somebody else's.

Frank A. DeFilippo writes on Maryland politics from Owings Mills.

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