It's too late

September 01, 1994|By Frank A. DeFilippo

THERE COMES a point in every campaign season where nothing can be done to alter its outcome and all anyone can do is sit back and watch. Campaign 1994 has arrived at that intersection.

As the campaign season tightens up and assumes its final shape, there's a strong undertow roiling across Maryland that could knock the socks off conventional wisdom.

The crosscurrents involve both Democrats and Republicans, next year's Baltimore mayoral campaign and switch-hitting voters in both parties who are angry at their own. And the bad news for Democrats is that there are only seven full weeks to re-group for the general election after what's been a nasty and divisive primary campaign.

Begin with the race for governor. There's a serious distrust of Democrat Parris Glendening that has its birthplace in his home territory of Prince George's County where he presides as executive.

Call it the "weasel factor," but even during his make-up handshake with political rival, state Senate President Thomas V. "Mike" Miller, Mr. Miller indicated that he fully expects Mr. Glendening to go back on his word as he apparently has done many times before. The agreement involves pledges of neutrality in the contest to succeed Mr. Glendening as county executive.

Mr. Miller supports state Sen. Beatrice Tignor and Mr. Glendening has been under pressure to endorse lawyer Wayne K. Curry. Mr. Curry is a former law student of Larry Gibson, who's managing Mr. Glendening's campaign in Baltimore. And the word bouncing up from the asphalt is that Mr. Glendening has promised Mr. Curry a cabinet post if he loses the county executive race because of Mr. Glendening's new-found neutrality. There's the rumble, too, that Mr. Gibson has failed to deliver a significant swatch of money that he'd committed to raise for Mr. Glendening.

All of which raises point two. Mr. Glendening has failed to make much of an impression in Baltimore where he's counting on Mr. Gibson and the apparatchicks loyal to Mayor Kurt Schmoke to lift his campaign over the high wire.

This, in itself, has invoked the law of unintended consequences -- opposition to Mr. Schmoke and especially to Mr. Gibson becoming larger-than-life statewide players with access to the State House and its patronage, programs and power.

As a prickly counterpoint, City Council President Mary Pat Clarke has endorsed state Sen. American Joe Miedusiewski for governor. And her supporters are rallying around the East Baltimore saloon keeper as a way of blocking the Schmoke-Gibson ascent to power and all the while strengthening her own campaign for mayor.

At another level, many of the old-line Democrats who wear the chevrons of Lt. Gov. Melvin "Mickey" Steinberg -- including

Mr. Steinberg himself -- openly are preparing to defect if he loses the Democratic primary election.

The audible buzz around Mr. Steinberg's precincts is that many voters will align with Republican Rep. Helen Delich Bentley rather than support Mr. Glendening.

For the Second District congressional seat Mrs. Bentley is abdicating there are six Democrats and three Republicans scrapping to succeed her. The leading Democrats are Dels. Gerry L. Brewster and Connie Galiazzo DeJuliis. And the top Republicans are Del. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and William J. Frank.

Mr. Brewster comes to the seat once held by his father, former U.S. Sen. Daniel B. Brewster, via Gilman, Princeton and old money. Del. Galiazzo DeJuliis has the support of the discount warehouse and union hall constituency in eastern Baltimore County's Norma Rae country.

The winner of the Democratic primary will more than likely face Mr. Ehrlich in the general. And if Mrs. Bentley is the Republican nominee, the question becomes: Will her skirt-tails be long enough to carry Mr. Ehrlich into office with her? In the trial heats, Mrs. Bentley defeats Mr. Glendening by more than 2-1 in Baltimore County.

To be sure, mistakes and misjudgments were made early and painfully. If, for example, Mr. Steinberg had resigned the lieutenant governorship he might be the clear front-runner today. Instead, he's been viewed as goofing off on the job for the past four years.

And if Mr. Steinberg had chosen a running-mate eight months ago, he could have avoided the series of embarrassments that accompanied his deadline -- to find a ticket-mate for lieutenant governor.

If upperdog Mr. Glendening hadn't exaggerated his resume and made that string of costly promises, his word wouldn't be suspect and he wouldn't be the butt of those wickedly humorous radio commercials courtesy of Mr. Miedusiewski.

And if Mrs. Bentley hadn't shucked and jived on the issues as well as misrepresenting her flimflam voting record, she'd have more believability as well as the consideration that "hey, maybe she can do the job after all."

But it's too late now for second-guessing and guilt-tripping.

Frank A. DeFilippo writes on Maryland politics from Owings Mills.

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