Steinberg offers spot to McMillen CAMPAIGN 1994 -- THE RACE FOR GOVERNOR

June 24, 1994|By Robert Timberg and William F. Zorzi Jr. | Robert Timberg and William F. Zorzi Jr.,Sun Staff Writers Sun staff writer John W. Frece contributed to this article.

Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg, looking to jump-start a gubernatorial campaign that has been rolling backward for months, has asked former U.S. Rep. Tom McMillen to be his running mate, a key Steinberg supporter said yesterday.

"I can confirm that, sure," said state Sen. Michael J. Wagner, D-Anne Arundel. "Tom is considering it. . . . It's certainly the spark that Mickey's campaign needs."

Mr. Steinberg offered the lieutenant governor spot on his ticket to Mr. McMillen in a two-hour meeting Wednesday morning at a hotel near Baltimore-Washington International Airport, said Mr. Wagner, who was at the meeting.

Attempts to reach Mr. Steinberg and Mr. McMillen were unsuccessful. But a Steinberg campaign aide, asking not to be identified by name, confirmed the offer had been made.

The aide also said the lieutenant governor hopes to have Mr. McMillen by his side Monday evening at a $100-a-ticket fund-raiser at Martin's West in Woodlawn.

The effort to lure Mr. McMillen onto his ticket comes at a crucial time for Mr. Steinberg, who has lost his front-runner status in the race for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination to Parris N. Glendening, Prince George's County executive.

A statewide poll by Mason-Dixon Political Media Research, conducted last week for The Sun and other news organizations, showed Mr. Glendening running ahead of Mr. Steinberg by 10 percentage points.

Mr. Steinberg, the state's second-highest officer holder for the past eight years, has suffered staff defections and public relations mistakes in recent months, leading many within the political establishment to question his campaign's competence.

Yesterday, state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., a friend of Mr. Steinberg's, declared: "I said it was his campaign to lose last year. He was far ahead of the pack. Not only hasn't he improved his position in the polls, he has instead let others surpass him."

Mr. McMillen, 42, a former professional basketball player and University of Maryland All-American, was a three-time congressman from Maryland's old 4th District -- composed primarily of Anne Arundel and Prince George's counties. In 1992, after being redistricted into the 1st District, he lost a bitterly contested race to an Eastern Shore Republican, Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest.

A turn-down from Mr. McMillen would be a blow to Mr. Steinberg, who sources say has had serious discussions about the second spot with at least three other people and found no takers. The three are state Senate Majority Leader Clarence W. Blount; Mary Pat Clarke, the Baltimore City Council President; and Betty Buck, president of the Prince George's County Chamber of Commerce. Should Mr. McMillen say no, sources say Mr. Steinberg is also looking at former Baltimore police commissioner Bishop L. Robinson, the state's public safety secretary, and state Sen. James C. Simpson of Southern Maryland.

Mr. Steinberg, through Dennis C. Donaldson, the political director of his campaign, has let Democratic members of the legislature know that the Monday fund-raiser is tantamount to a command performance.

In a letter to lawmakers, Mr. Donaldson said, "The time has come for those of us supporting Lieutenant Governor Mickey Steinberg to stand up with him in his bid" for the governorship. Mr. Donaldson wrote, "WE WANT YOU THERE."

Yesterday, Mr. Donaldson said: "We're asking Mickey's friends to stand up and be counted. It's time. The ship is leaving the pier." He said the letter was not a veiled threat of political retaliation if Mr. Steinberg is elected. "That's why I signed it instead of Mickey," he said. "I didn't want it to sound threatening."

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