Glendening's duplicity raises concern in city CAMPAIGN 1994

September 11, 1994|By MICHAEL OLESKER

The day after Parris N. Glendening was caught finessing the English language, he naturally had an earnest and compelling explanation: He didn't mean anything by it.

Yes, Glendening admitted, he'd been saying one thing to Baltimore voters and another to Washington-area voters. Yes, he admitted, he'd told Baltimoreans he would give aid and sustenance to the city if elected governor, but, yes, he'd also told folks in Montgomery and Prince George's counties that it was time for them to snatch away Baltimore's historic state power and clutch it to their own heaving chests.

But all of this was just political gabbing, he was saying over the telephone the morning those contradictions appeared here. He was only intending to shore up his home base with all that talk about grabbing power. It's what any politician would do. Never mind what he said, he really had Baltimore's future in his heart.

And then he mentioned Richard Nixon. Like Nixon going to China, he declared, he could reach out to Baltimore. He could do things for the city that no governor with a Baltimore background could do. He could look out for its welfare without being charged, like William Donald Schaefer (or, for that matter, Mickey Steinberg), with political provincialism.

And so, 48 hours before primary election day, with such contradictions still unresolved, those from the city are left to wonder: Do we believe this guy? Can Glendening, a stranger until last spring and now the apparent front-runner as Tuesday's primary election looms, be trusted? Do Baltimoreans cast a vote for him and thus contribute to the erosion of their city as the hub of the state, or can he, like Nixon, go where only a man with his background could go?

Among those still hoping to fall in love with Glendening is Kurt L. Schmoke. This is not always easy. Whatever difficulties the mayor's had with the current governor, he's maintained all along that Schaefer was there when money was needed. Now, by coming out early and strong for Glendening, Schmoke's rolling the dice that he hasn't sold out his own city.

He's heard the dueling Glendening speeches. In fact, Schmoke was saying last week, the Glendening speech about breaking Baltimore's power nearly prompted the mayor to run for governor himself.

"His explanation [for the speeches]," Schmoke was saying, "is ,, that it's strictly a strategy for winning an election. In other words, a strategy for winning, but not for governing."

The mayor spoke softly, but sounded reasonably convinced. It's a little late in the game now for second-guessing. Before he agreed to back Glendening, Schmoke got specific assurances of municipal help. But he knows those assurances don't mean anything if it turns out the state can't afford them. What's more, the mayor's heard rumblings from some people around him that they don't fully trust this candidate from Prince George's County.

"Several weeks back, there was concern," the mayor said, "from some of our campaign people. Parris gave a speech about placing the budget ahead of programs, and some of our campaign workers were questioning his commitment.

"I tried to allay their fears. I don't think it's a problem. Listen, anything I've asked him to do has got to be predicated on the state's financial problems. But he and I have gone through the wars together -- the national recession, the state cutbacks, all the wrestling to balance budgets. He understands what we're going through."

Among the things Schmoke would want from a Governor Glendening: support for an initiative to have the state take over the cost of running the Baltimore City Circuit Court ("A godsend," said Schmoke, "when the state took over the City Jail budget"); school funding ("I didn't have to get too specific; it's one of his central themes"); money for police ("The federal crime bill will help for now, but when that money is phased out in three years, we'll need state help"); and a bill to eliminate car insurance inequities.

"It's like another tax on city dwellers," the mayor said, noting higher across-the-board insurance rates for those in Baltimore. "How you drive, not where you live, should determine insurance. And it's not a budget-busting item."

With assurances he would help on such matters, Glendening won the mayor's confidence. It stung those like Steinberg and American Joe Miedusiewski, whose Baltimore-area backgrounds are deep but whose political chances are considered iffy.

Whatever second thoughts Schmoke might have, he's keeping them to himself. It's two days until the primary election, and all that's riding is his city's future.

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