Glendening picks Townsend as No. 2

June 19, 1994|By Robert Timberg | Robert Timberg,Sun Staff Writer

Reaching across the state and into the Democratic Party's storied past, Prince George's County Executive Parris N. Glendening has picked Kathleen Kennedy Townsend as his lieutenant governor running mate, sources close to the campaign say.

Ms. Townsend, 42, is the daughter of the late Robert F. Kennedy and the niece of the late President John F. Kennedy. She is a deputy assistant attorney general in the Justice Department once headed by her father.

A Massachusetts native, she has lived for 10 years in the Ruxton section of Baltimore County with her husband, David Townsend, a professor at St. John's College in Annapolis. They have four daughters, ages 2 to 16.

Mr. Glendening, the sources said, is to officially announce his selection of Ms. Townsend Tuesday in Annapolis. Ethel M. Kennedy, Ms. Townsend's mother, is expected to attend to lend some of the fabled Kennedy mystique to the occasion.

David Seldin, a Glendening campaign spokesman, said he would neither confirm nor deny the selection yesterday. Ms. Townsend, in a brief telephone interview, said the same.

Mr. Glendening, who has been endorsed by Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, was widely expected to name a woman or an African-American to his ticket. Mr. Schmoke could not be reached for comment.

On the Republican side, indications were strong yesterday that the apparent Republican front-runner, Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, has settled on state Sen. Howard A. Denis of Montgomery County as her running mate.

"I don't feel it's appropriate to make any further comments," said Mr. Denis, a moderate Republican who has held his Senate seat since 1977. A month ago, he said that he was seeking re-election and had asked the Bentley campaign not to consider him for the lieutenant governor slot.

Several factors appear to have gone into Mr. Glendening's decision

By selecting Ms. Townsend, Mr. Glendening has seemingly moved to counter the appeal of state Sen. Mary H. Boergers of Montgomery County, the only woman in a primary election field that includes four competitive candidates.

Mr. Glendening also adds geographic balance to his ticket in that Ms. Townsend lives on Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg's home turf, although she does not appear to have more than a modest political base.

By tapping Ms. Townsend, the professorial Mr. Glendening brings adegree of star quality to his well-organized, if not overly exciting, campaign. "It's hard to ignore a ticket with a Kennedy on it," said Brad Coker, of Mason-Dixon Political Survey Research, which conducts polls for news organizations.

As a dividend, the choice may make it possible for Mr. Glendening, viewed by many as the front-runner in the battle for the Democratic nomination as well as the best-financed candidate, to tap into national fund-raising sources, including organized labor, loyal to the Kennedys.

There is at least one potential drawback. Mr. Glendening has no experience at the state government level, and Ms. Townsend's only such experience was a few months as an assistant state attorney general in 1985.

In her only previous try for elective office, in 1986, Ms. Townsend was handily defeated for the 2nd District congressional seat by the incumbent, Mrs. Bentley, who was then completing her first term in office. In that campaign, Mrs. Bentley portrayed Ms. Townsend, who was relatively new to Maryland at the time, as a liberal carpetbagger who didn't know the issues. Mrs. Bentley defeated Ms. Townsend 59 percent to 41 percent.

Key Kidder, a Bentley campaign spokesman, declined to make substantive comment on the Glendening selection of a running mate. "I told Helen, and she laughed and said, 'That's Mr. Glendening's problem," Mr. Kidder said.

Senator Boergers' campaign manager, Kevin S. Keefe, said Mr. Glendening has gone into "a little bit of a defensive posture" with the Townsend selection. "I think he's been worried about the progress Mary has been making with the women in the state," he said.

Mr. Keefe said Ms. Townsend called Mrs. Boergers Friday to tell her she was supporting Mr. Glendening, though she did not reveal that she had agreed to be his running mate.

"Mary said she was disappointed in her," Mr. Keefe said.

Mr.Steinberg, through his press secretary, Dan Walter, declined to comment on Ms. Townsend.

Jim Brochin, a spokesman for Baltimore state Sen. American Joe Miedusiewski, another of the Democratic hopefuls, said he was not surprised by the choice because Ms.Townsend "represents the same tax and spend philosophy that Parris does."

At the Justice Department, Ms. Townsend is said to administer a $2.4 billion budget for assisting local law enforcement agencies, a job the Glendening campaign apparently plans to promote as being at or near the front in the fight against crime.

Mr. Glendening was said by a source close to the campaign to have decided on Ms. Townsend because they share many views on many issues, including education, crime and the environment.

Mr. Glendening, sources said, made his decision in the past few days in conjunction with a panel he set up to screen prospects.

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