In (or Out) of the Gubernatorial Pool CAMPAIGN 1994

June 21, 1994

By our count, a dozen prospective candidates for the #F Governor's Mansion have taken a look at the length of the pool, stuck a toe in the water and decided to sit this one out. From a physician to an asbestos litigator to a corporate CEO to members of Congress, a mayor, a county executive and two House speakers, the list of non-candidates is far longer than the list of actual contenders.

This seems to be the year of political caution. The difficulty of launching a campaign that could cost $2 million or more is often mentioned as a reason. And as the July 5 filing deadline draws near, it becomes even harder for a dark horse candidate to put together a campaign and raise the funds needed for viability. The primary, after all, is just 12 weeks away.

Neall, Schmoke, Mitchell, Morella, Cardin, Bainum, Kelly, Solomon, Angelos and Hoyer were joined last week by House speaker Casper Taylor and Schools Superintendent Nancy Grasmick as non-candidates. One excuse is that it would be too much of a long-shot against the two Democratic front-runners with $1 million kitties, Lt. Gov. Melvin Steinberg and Prince George's County Executive Parris Glendening, or against the 800-pound gorilla of the Republican primary, Helen D. Bentley. Besides, Mrs. Grasmick is an educator, not a backslapping pol, and Mr. Taylor is just beginning to settle into his House job -- one of the most powerful in Annapolis.

Still, there's always a chance someone will pull a "Harry Hughes" this year. Back in 1978, Mr. Hughes filed at the last minute for governor and then shocked everyone by winning a decisive victory. He caught the public's imagination. But the lackluster group in this year's primaries, especially on the Democratic side, hasn't sparked much interest among voters. This has some businessmen trying to persuade Donald P. Hutchinson to enter the race. He was a Democratic delegate, state senator and two-term county executive in Baltimore County before serving as executive director for state and now city business groups.

Is there time to put together a full-fledged gubernatorial campaign? Indeed there is. British candidates do it in far fewer days running for Parliament. Besides, the public doesn't pay much attention to political goings-on during the summer vacation period. Only as Labor Day nears do they stop, look and listen.

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