Governor Taylor?

May 25, 1994

He's the most successful state legislator in the modern history of Western Maryland: The first chairman of a standing committee in the House of Delegates from that rural region, and the only House speaker in this century from the Appalachians. Could it be that Cumberland's Casper R. Taylor now wants to reach for the brass ring on the political merry-go-round by running for governor?

Such speculation was inevitable from the time Gov. William Donald Schaefer took a personal hand in drumming up support for a $200-a-ticket Taylor fund-raiser in Baltimore Monday night. The event drew an estimated 1,200 well-wishers and special-interest boosters hoping to stay on friendly terms with the increasingly powerful House speaker. The $250,000 raised could provide a comfortable launching pad for a gubernatorial campaign.

But this momentary ego boost is unlikely to last, and Mr. Taylor has told friends he probably won't run for governor -- this year. In 1998 or 2002, perhaps. But not 1994.

Why? Because Mr. Taylor is still new in his job as speaker, a post he gained after the sudden resignation of R. Clayton Mitchell last December. It is the role Mr. Taylor has long coveted and he reportedly is leery of giving it up even before he has gotten comfortable. Moreover, a race for governor would be a longshot, especially if Mr. Taylor were to enter so late in the primary season, with two candidates already having raised over $1 million. His base of support is small and he is not well known outside Western Maryland.

Besides, Mr. Taylor could be vulnerable in a statewide race. He is strongly opposed to liberalizing abortion laws. He is opposed to tougher gun-control legislation. And his proximity to special interests as a committee chairman could prove a liability.

On the positive side, he would be a fresh face with a proven record of legislative achievements. He is credited with getting the state's health-care reform package enacted. He has been a unifying figure as House speaker. And he offers a welcome statewide perspective that neutralizes Baltimore-versus-Washington regional disputes.

Mr. Taylor must decide in the next six weeks if he intends to run for the state's top job. He certainly can't be written off. After all, just 16 years ago another late entry with extensive legislative experience was derided as a "lost ball in high grass." Yet Harry R. Hughes shocked everyone with a solid primary victory. He served two terms as governor. Could it happen again? Is Cas Taylor the next Harry Hughes?

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