Bainum long had doubts on entering governor's race CAMPAIGN 1994

May 17, 1994|By William F. Zorzi Jr. and Robert Timberg | William F. Zorzi Jr. and Robert Timberg,Sun Staff Writers

CHEVY CHASE -- Millionaire businessman Stewart Bainum Jr. said yesterday that nagging concerns about time with his family and the effect on his company were the reasons for his last-minute decision to abort his Democratic bid for governor Sunday night, the eve of his scheduled announcement.

"I don't think that any specific thing happened at the last minute," Mr. Bainum said with his wife, Sandy, and 2 1/2 -year-old son, Bradford, at his side.

"I have had ambivalence about this decision for the last four months -- back in January, when I first started looking at the race, through yesterday," the 48-year-old chief executive officer of Manor Care Inc. said.

"In the end you have to make a final decision, and yesterday [Sunday] was the final time I had to make that decision."

Mr. Bainum's friends, supporters and aides -- even some of those

closest to him -- said they were shocked at his decision not to pursue the race and yesterday sought a plausible explanation from the dark-horse Democrat.

He already had invested about $250,000 in his campaign's exploratory effort, hired a staff of 12, booked $500,000 in television air time for campaign ads to coincide with a series of announcements statewide this week and mustered early political and business support.

"I'm just flabbergasted," said one campaign aide, who was called with the news late Sunday.

A Bainum candidacy, which was encouraged by Gov. William Donald Schaefer, could have cut into support for two of the Democratic candidates -- Prince George's County Executive Parris N. Glendening and state Sen. Mary H. Boergers of Montgomery County -- because of simple geography.

Such a development probably would have helped Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg of Baltimore County by splitting the vote and financial support in the Washington suburbs.

Mr. Glendening and Mr. Steinberg said they were not running their campaigns based on who else was in the race and wished Mr. Bainum well.

Ms. Boergers acknowledged that Mr. Bainum's candidacy would have offered her "formidable" opposition in her home county, and she seized the opportunity to tout herself as "now the clear-cut choice for voters seeking change."

State Sen. American Joe Miedusiewski of Baltimore said, "I'll tell you, if it was easy, everybody would be doing it."

As for the Democratic field, Mr. Bainum said yesterday that his decision not to run made room for another candidate and suggested Nancy S. Grasmick, the state school superintendent, who was at the top of his short list for lieutenant governor. Mrs. Grasmick, whom Mr. Schaefer encouraged last year to run for governor, was at a meeting in Ocean City and unavailable for comment.

Mr. Bainum, a former state delegate and senator, compared his 11th-hour change of heart to a decision 20 years ago by his sister, Roberta, who called off her wedding the morning of the event.

Mr. Bainum said he felt he could have made a difference in how Maryland was run if he had been elected governor. "That was part of the calculation," he said. "Another part of the calculation was, 'What would this mean to my family, what would this mean to me in my personal life, what would this mean to my business?' "

Friends, campaign aides and supporters said concern about scrutiny of his family and business -- and possible mud-slinging from other candidates -- also were considerations for him.

"Part of this, frankly, is my son has been asking me for a month to play with him -- I think he's finally given up -- but I've just been out every night," Mr. Bainum said.

Mr. Bainum said he was not concerned about possible skeletons in his closet, noting that he had a research consultant prepare a report in December on any negatives about him or Manor Care, a nursing home and hotel company.

Campaign sources gave this account of events over the weekend that culminated in Mr. Bainum's decision Sunday evening to reverse course and stay out of the race:

On Friday evening, he gave no indication that he was reconsidering his plans. He and his press secretary, David S. Weaver, discussed calling a post-announcement news conference later this week at which Mr. Bainum was to say he would not accept money from political action committees and would unveil a proposal to reform the financing of political campaigns.

On Saturday, Mr. Bainum was putting the finishing touches on his announcement speech and practicing his delivery. Late in the afternoon, Mr. Weaver called to tell him about a story in the Sunday Sun that said he would announce his candidacy Monday and that his personal fortune would play a big role in his campaign.

Mr. Bainum had no complaint about the story but was miffed by the headline, which read, "Bainum's big-bucks race for governor."

During that conversation, Mr. Weaver asked how Mr. Bainum was doing with the speech, which had been written and rewritten several times. Mr. Bainum said it was coming along fine. Nothing seemed amiss.

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