Wealthy Montgomery County businessman Stewart Bainum Jr., who had spent more than $500,000 preparing television ads to launch a belated candidacy for Maryland governor, announced last night he was abruptly changing his mind and would not enter the already-crowded race.
As late as Friday, Mr. Bainum's campaign showed reporters polished television spots that were expected to win him credibility quickly.
Today, Mr. Bainum, 48, a Democrat and former state legislator, ++ had been expected to announced his candidacy at events planned across the state.
With just four months before the Sept. 13 Democratic primary, Mr. Bainum would have had to hit the ground running.
Some aides said that despite his willingness to spend heavily, he always has been somewhat ambivalent about leaving his lucrative business career for what could be a messy political campaign.
"I have been very fortunate in my life," Mr. Bainum said in a short statement issued by his campaign office. "I've got a great family and a great job at a company with a great future here in Maryland. I've decided that I want to focus on these family and business opportunities.
"I appreciate the outpouring of support that was generated by talk of my candidacy and wish to thank everyone who has dedicated time and energy to this venture."
In an interview with a Sun reporter last week, Mr. Bainum never waivered on his commitment to running.
In the interview, he said he had plans to overhaul the state personnel system, reward teachers and schools that excel, and make Maryland "the most hospitable research and development state in the country."
Spokesman David Weaver said last night that Mr. Bainum was planning to hold a news conference at 1 p.m. today at his home in Chevy Chase.
"This was a difficult decision for Mr. Bainum. He still believed that he could win this race," Mr. Weaver said.
"He was and still is committed to making change in Maryland and in Maryland government," Mr. Weaver said. "But he has concluded that he can best do that from the private sector."
Since 1987, Mr. Bainum has headed Manor Care Inc., which has properties including nursing homes and hotels. In an interview -- recently, Mr. Bainum estimated the value of his Manor Care stock at $50 million. He has other, less extensive holdings, he said.
Mr. Bainum's statement did not rule out a run for another office later.
"I believe that for the time being my contribution can best be made from the private sector as an outside advocate for change," Mr. Bainum said.
Mr. Bainum, a former state senator from Chevy Chase, would have had to play catch-up to gain name recognition. Some political observers gave him a chance of pulling an upset because none of the other six Democratic contenders has emerged as a clear favorite.
Mr. Bainum conducted a poll in December, had four mailings of about 20,000 each to influential Democrats and hired a campaign staff of about 12 people.
Aides could not estimate last night how much Mr. Bainum had spent on his abortive campaign.
Mr. Bainum had said he was prepared to spend as much of his own money as it took to get elected.
Some campaign aides said they think that Mr. Bainum was reluctant to defend himself against expected charges that he was trying to buy the governorship, although polls indicated that voters weren't troubled by the idea.
Aides also sensed a lingering reluctance on Mr. Bainum's part to jump into what promises to be a bruising Democratic fight.