Taylor gains governor-size campaign fund

May 24, 1994|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,Sun Staff Writer

House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. worked the room at his $200-a-head fund-raiser in Baltimore like a candidate for governor but stopped short last night of announcing a bid.

Mr. Taylor -- who raised roughly $250,000 at the event -- said he has not ruled out jumping into the Democratic field. Advisers said he is seriously weighing a decision to get into the race.

"Well, look, I think it's safe to say that in the last four to five weeks, I've had a lot of people talk to me about running for governor," Mr. Taylor said in an interview.

"I'm trying to focus on what I think the leadership issues are as we approach this next [election] cycle," the Allegany County Democrat said. "I want to be part of that leadership . . . whatever the position."

Mr. Taylor, 59, a member of the House since 1975 and its speaker since January, assembled some of Maryland's most wealthy and powerful leaders for last night's fund-raiser -- billed as the "Tribute to Taylor" -- at the Omni Inner Harbor Hotel.

In his remarks to the crowd of more than 1,200, Mr. Taylor spoke of the need for Maryland to address "new challenges" such as creating jobs, fighting crime and improving public schools. They could have been the comments of a man who is running for governor, or simply re-election as speaker.

Campaign brochures touted Mr. Taylor's "career of visionary statewide leadership" -- and did not specify what office he is seeking.

Many attending last night, including Gov. William Donald Schaefer, appeared to be there to support Mr. Taylor as House speaker and not necessarily as gubernatorial material.

Democrats already in the governor's race include Prince George's County Executive Parris N. Glendening, Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg, and state Senators Mary H. Boergers of Montgomery County and American Joe Miedusiewski of Baltimore. None has yet emerged as a clear front-runner.

With less than four months until the Democratic primary -- barely time to launch a statewide bid -- Mr. Taylor is not the only possible addition to the field to emerge.

State school Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick also is weighing a decision to run for governor in the wake of last week's decision by Montgomery County businessman Stewart Bainum Jr. not to enter the race.

Dr. Grasmick, 55, of Baltimore County, led Mr. Bainum's short list for running mates, and he all but endorsed her in announcing he would not run.

There has been talk in political circles -- just talk, at this point -- of a possible Taylor-Grasmick or Grasmick-Taylor ticket.

In his current position, Mr. Taylor has mustered the support of many top business and political leaders. But a gubernatorial bid could be a problem for him given his limited political voting base in Western Maryland and his votes against abortion-rights and gun control measures.

The money he raised last night is a goodly sum in Maryland politics, even for a presiding officer in the legislature.

Former House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr. did little if any fund raising in his six years leading the House. Benjamin L. Cardin of Baltimore, who was speaker from 1979 to 1986, began heavy fund raising only during his last year in the legislature as he geared up for a gubernatorial bid, later abandoned. Mr. Cardin is now the 3rd District congressman.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., a Prince George's Democrat, had raised $382,910 as of November, the last time campaign finance reports were due.

At the least, Mr. Taylor's fund-raising efforts could help assure his re-election as speaker next year. He faces no opposition so far.

If he chooses not to run for governor, the money he has raised could buy a lot of goodwill among his colleagues in the House as he disperses money to loyalists and would-be followers through campaign transfers this election year.

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