Glendening in lead, but a few shaky steps

THE POLITICAL GAME

June 29, 1994|By Robert Timberg | Robert Timberg,Sun Staff Writer

We've reached that stage in the election year when political reporters tie bungee cords to their swivel chairs to avoid being spun into orbit by advocates for the various candidates.

Nearly everyone in the political realm has chosen sides, which means that practically everyone has become a spinmeister.

With that disclaimer, let's look at some recent developments in the race for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

Although a Mason-Dixon poll published last week placed Parris N. Glendening in the lead for the first time, there is a sense that the Prince George's County executive may be facing problems down the line.

He has already been accused of making promises he can't keep without increasing taxes and toadying to special interests in return for endorsements.

The Townsend choice

More recently, his choice of running mate -- Kathleen Kennedy Townsend -- has met with mixed reviews.

Mrs. Townsend, it is said, will boost fund raising because the Kennedy family has a national network of well-heeled supporters.

She should also help cement labor support and add excitement to the campaign.

But she burnishes a liberal gloss that has coated the Glendening operation from the start, which could cause difficulties, especially in the general election contest when voters -- and not just the Republicans -- tend to be more conservative than those that turn out for Democratic primaries.

There is something else: a suspicion that Mr. Glendening may have trivialized his campaign through his selection of Mrs. Townsend, who has never held elected office and whose credentials, are mildly but not overly impressive.

The question many people are asking is: Would Mr. Glendening have tapped her if her name were Kathleen Jones Townsend.

The law enforcement claim

Mr. Glendening is also taking heat for promoting himself as a former police commissioner. Technically, it seems he's correct.

In 1973 and 1974, the city of Hyattsville, population about 12,000 back then, had a commissioner form of government.

Each commissioner, including Mr. Glendening, had a different area of responsibility -- finance, public works, parks and recreation, and the like. Mr. Glendening had police.

To supporters, his portrayal of himself as an ex-police commissioner is simply the truth.

Rivals skeptical

To rivals, such as Baltimore state Sen. American Joe Miedusiewski, Mr. Glendening is "exaggerating his resume."

At best, it seems a stretch, one that opens Mr. Glendening to avoidable ridicule.

On Monday, Mr. Miedusiewski likened him to Barney Fife, a reference to the inept deputy sheriff played by Don Knotts in the old Andy Griffith TV show.

Although Melvin A. Steinberg trails Mr. Glendening by 10 percentage points in the poll, 21 percent to 31 percent, the lieutenant governor still seems positioned to overcome his problem-beset campaign and reclaim the lead when it counts.

The poll found Mr. Steinberg leading Mr. Glendening in the Baltimore region 34 percent to 22 percent, a solid base if he can build on it.

Moreover, Mr. Glendening's poll standing was probably boosted by two weeks of television ads he ran in the Baltimore area, as well as his endorsement in April by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.

Mr. Steinberg has not run any radio or television ads. He's scheduled to start in mid-July, and aides say he plans to stay on the air right up to primary day, Sept. 13.

He's got a lot of work to do, especially in the Washington area.

The poll has Mr. Glendening beating him there 56 percent to 2 percent.

For Mr. Miedusiewski, months of hard work have not paid tangible dividends so far.

The poll found that 74 percent of likely voters did not recognize his name, a name, need it be said, that you don't forget if you've ever heard it.

As for state Sen. Mary H. Boergers, of Montgomery County, the fourth major Democratic hopeful, only a fool would discount the chances of the one woman in a four-person race.

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