Bentley finally picks campaign chief


May 11, 1994|By Robert Timberg | Robert Timberg,Sun Staff Writer

If Republican gubernatorial candidate Helen Delich Bentley has avoided the messy staff problems that have afflicted the campaign of a Democratic counterpart, Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg, one reason may be that until recently she barely had a campaign staff.

Mrs. Bentley has finally hired a campaign manager, six months after she announced her candidacy for governor and just four months before the Sept. 13 primary election.

Jacqueline L. Phillips, a veteran political operative but never before a campaign manager, has taken over the Bentley operation, run largely by Washington consultant Gordon Hensley since January.

Ms. Phillips, a longtime Montgomery County resident, spent most of the Reagan-Bush years as a presidential appointee, serving from 1982 to 1993 as federal co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission.

She has been involved in Maryland GOP politics for 16 years. In 1978, she was assistant campaign director and field coordinator for J. Glenn Beall Jr.'s campaign for governor, which ended in the landslide election of Democrat Harry Hughes. She worked for George Bush in Maryland during the 1980 primary season, and was executive director of the Reagan-Bush campaign in the state that year. She was active on behalf of the Reagan-Bush ticket again in 1984 and for Bush-Quayle in 1992.

A few months ago, Ross Whealton, an Eastern Shore-based political consultant and one-time senior staffer for then-Congressmen William O. Mills, now deceased, and Robert E. Bauman, was expected to become Mrs. Bentley's campaign manager.

The Baltimore County congresswoman, however, wanted someone who could be on the job seven days a week, which conflicted with Mr. Whealton's other business interests, including an active public affairs firm.

Ms. Phillips' arrival has coincided with the fleshing out of what had been a skeletal Bentley staff. Former Sun editorial assistant Francis "Key" Kidder has signed on as press secretary, taking over another of the chores handled in recent months by Mr. Hensley.

Mrs. Bentley has set up a fund-raising staff that includes Fred Bush, no relation to the ex-president, deputy national finance chairman for the 1988 Bush campaign, and Phillip S. Smith, executive director of the Republican National Committee's fund-raising operation from 1980 to 1989.

Much of the money generated will go for television commercials. Greg Stevens and Co. of Alexandria, Va., will make and place Mrs. Bentley's TV ads. Last year the firm performed similar duties for the successful Virginia gubernatorial candidate, George Allen.

As for the slow pace in putting together a team, Mr. Hensley, who remains as communications consultant, said, "The Bentley campaign is in the process of building a statewide campaign operation capable of winning in November. . . . We've gone to great lengths to keep payroll costs down in the first quarter."

November? Is there some overconfidence here? Although Mrs. Bentley is regarded as the front-runner, her two GOP rivals -- Ellen R. Sauerbrey, the Republican leader of the Maryland House, and William S. Shepard, the party's 1990 candidate for governor -- are waging spirited campaigns and conceding nothing.

Potter backs Glendening

Parris N. Glendening continues to collect high-profile endorsements in his quest for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. Two weeks ago, the Prince George's County executive's candidacy was embraced by Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke. On Monday, Neal Potter, the Montgomery County executive, threw his support to Mr. Glendening. Mr. Glendening now can claim the backing of the top elected officials of Maryland's two most populous subdivisions.

In endorsing Mr. Glendening, Mr. Potter bypassed two bTC home-grown Montgomery candidates -- state Sen. Mary H. Boergers and businessman Stewart Bainum Jr., the latter expected to enter the race officially next week.

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