The last time I saw Parris Glendening, his heart was young and gay. And why not? There he was Monday night, standing in a crowded living room in northwest Baltimore County, with his hand stretched far enough to touch the State House in Annapolis and take in a few dollars on the way.
The crowded living room was Ted Venetoulis'. The event was a gubernatorial fund-raiser for Glendening, who stood there with his wife, Frances Anne, at one side and his running mate, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, at the other. Imagine this: Glendening brings his campaign to the very home of the man who once tried to guide Mickey Steinberg's run, before seeing the light.
Remember Steinberg? Once, he was considered a lock as the next governor. Now he's dropped to fourth in the Democratic polls. It's no longer a secret that there's endless confusion in his camp, characterized by the defections of Venetoulis and several more aides, one after the other, as well as Steinberg's embarrassing inability to pin down running mates he'd wanted. Also, one after the other.
In fact, in the crowd at Venetoulis' house Monday, one woman joked, "Mickey asked me to run, but I had car pool."
So there you are: With Steinberg now trailing not only Glendening, but American Joe Miedusiewski and Mary Boergers as well, open ridicule is now considered fashionable.
"Mickey's problem," said one former loyalist who changed his mind, "is that he was surrounded by people who weren't devoted to Mickey."
So now some of the former Steinberg loyalists are looking to fall in love all over again. Here at Venetoulis' house, here on Steinberg's Baltimore County home turf, they gathered to see if Glendening is their guy.
It was largely a Baltimore County crowd at Venetoulis', but their city loyalties are still strong. Asked for their votes, and their money, these people want to know if Glendening's vision extends much beyond his own Prince George's County.
He talked a good game. Gotta end the scuffling between the city and the D.C. suburbs, he said. Gotta end the financial disparities between the jurisdictions. Gotta invest in schools currently underfunded. Gotta get private industry moving again, and then he mentioned the vanishing of jobs once taken for granted at Sparrows Point, another little reference point to show that he cares enough about the Baltimore area to know a few brand names.
This stuff is important to hear for people who not only fear Baltimore's problems might be ignored by someone from Prince George's County, but also worry about the political balance of power shifting, perhaps forever, from here to the D.C. suburbs.
Glendening, no dummy, was thus trying to signal the nervous: I understand. I'm on your side. As Baltimore goes, so goes the state.
And yet, inevitably, those in politics never entirely outrun their own past.
In February of 1993, Glendening was talking a different game when he spoke to people in Montgomery and Prince George's counties. Here are some of his remarks quoted back then in the Montgomery County Sentinel:
"Once we break the deadlock [that Baltimore has on the state legislature], we can build a coalition in southern and western Maryland that will unify behind us in 1994 and change history.
"We have to hang together strong as a region. The real, real, real political issue is: This region needs a governor.
"Only one of the state's top office holders is not from Baltimore, and that's Comptroller Louis Goldstein, and that is because he was elected before Baltimore was even born. If our two counties cannot hold together, each is in an impossible situation."
Glendening, the Sentinel reported, drew applause when he saidMontgomery and Prince George's counties were the engines driving the state economy and "deserve to have some reasonable return."
What's reasonable? Depends, maybe, on where Glendening's doing the talking. The battle lines between the state's geographical haves and have-nots have long since been drawn. It's Glendening's job now to show he recognizes no lines.
He said the right things the other night. But it was a Baltimore crowd. If he talks this kind of language to the D.C. suburbanites, it might make a lot of people around here feel more comfortable with thoughts of Parris in the fall.