Democrat dodges Clinton, fetes JFK Jr.

September 28, 1994|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,Sun Staff Writer

If the choice is between a president with a sagging approval rating and a charismatic Kennedy, who gets invited to campaign in Maryland for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Parris N. Glendening?

The answer was clear yesterday as Mr. Glendening welcomed John F. Kennedy Jr. for three fund-raising events while keeping his distance from President Clinton.

Like many Democrats across the country, Mr. Glendening has no interest in bringing Mr. Clinton to Maryland, a spokesman said yesterday.

"We're talking about Maryland and state government and what Parris can do to address the real problems of this state," said Glendening spokesman David Seldin. "We're not worrying about national issues, national politics."

Does that mean a presidential visit would hurt rather than help Mr. Glendening?

"We just think who the president is isn't particularly relevant to this race," Mr. Seldin said.

It's no problem, though, bringing in the son of an ex-president.

John F. Kennedy Jr., the cousin of Mr. Glendening's running mate, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, was the guest of honor yesterday at three separate Glendening fund-raisers in the Baltimore-Washington area.

In the afternoon, Mr. Kennedy was the star at a $500-a-head reception at the Guest Quarters hotel near Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

Last night, he was appearing at two Washington events -- a dinner for big Glendening supporters and later a $100-a-person fund-raiser at the private Touchdown Club.

"He wanted to come in and help his cousin," said Mr. Seldin.

Having a Kennedy on the ticket has been a two-edged sword for Mr. Glendening. The name attracts money, but many Democratic officials in Maryland privately grumbled about the selection of Ms. Townsend, saying she was too liberal.

Wooing the moderate middle of the electorate, Mr. Glendening began airing a commercial on Baltimore television last night that touts himself as "a mainstream moderate."

While Mr. Glendening seems to be staying away from Mr. Clinton, a spokeswoman for GOP candidate Ellen R. Sauerbrey linked the two.

"It's understandable that Glendening wouldn't want Clinton to campaign with him," said Carol Hirschburg, a Sauerbrey spokeswoman.

"After all, bringing in a fellow tax-and-spend liberal would only serve to point out their similarities."

Although Mr. Clinton has been kept at arm's length by many Democratic candidates this year, it would seem that Maryland, with its 2-to-1 ratio of Democratic to Republican voters, might be friendly territory.

In the 1992 election, Mr. Clinton took 50 percent of the Maryland vote in the three-way race with George Bush and Ross Perot, his best showing in any state other than his home state of Arkansas.

Then again, Mr. Clinton may not believe he owes much to Mr. Glendening, who endorsed former U.S. Sen. Paul Tsongas in the Maryland Democratic primary that year.

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