Glendening's power base has shifted to Baltimore

November 11, 1994|By ROGER SIMON

On the Thursday after Election Day, Larry Gibson sat at his kitchen table crunching numbers on his calculator.

The question to him was not so much whether Parris Glendening would win the governorship -- Gibson expects that he will -- but what it would mean for Kurt Schmoke.

As Kurt Schmoke's campaign manager and with Schmoke facing re-election in 1995, that remains Gibson's overriding concern.

But when he was done with his numbers and rewarded himself with some of the sweet potato pie his father-in-law had just removed from the oven, Gibson decided there was reason to put a positive spin on things.

"Without a doubt, the principal factor [in Glendening's possible victory] is the strong support of African-American voters, and this is a result of the early, enthusiastic and consistent support of Mayor Schmoke," Gibson said.

And the way Gibson sees it, the most significant part of Glendening's power base is now Baltimore City, not his home county of Prince George's.

That's because even though Glendening got 2,000 more raw votes in Prince George's than in Baltimore, he got a higher percentage of the vote in Baltimore than in Prince George's (75 percent to 68 percent) and his victory margin was greater in Baltimore: about 72,000 votes, compared with a victory margin in Prince George's of about 61,000 votes.

(Political organizers don't care that much about raw votes -- one raw vote for you can be canceled out by one raw vote against you -- but do care about margin, because margin, i.e. one more vote than your opponent, is what defines victory.)

"Baltimore didn't know Parris Glendening from Adam before Kurt Schmoke endorsed him," Gibson said. "Before Schmoke's endorsement, he was at about 3 percent in the polls. Afterward, he shot up to the mid-20s."

Schmoke was undoubtedly a factor in Glendening's getting about 90 percent of the black vote in Baltimore, but the voter turnout in the city was only 43 percent, which is partly why Glendening is still locked in a tight race.

"But look at this number," Gibson said. "In 1990, 113,802 Baltimoreans voted for governor. This year, 148,000 voted for governor. In that four-year period Baltimore lost about 10 percent of its population, but still increased its vote by 35,000."

So what does this all mean? It means that Glendening, if he does hold on to win, must keep Baltimore happy if he wants to be re-elected.

And in terms of Schmoke's future, it means he will be able to tell voters that if he is re-elected as mayor, Baltimore will have a friend in Annapolis, a friend who can continue to send dollars the city's way.

And Schmoke's opponent, City Council President Mary Pat Clarke, can make no such claim, Gibson believes.

"Remember," Gibson said, "that Mary Pat Clarke endorsed American Joe Miedusiewski in the primary, whom Glendening defeated."

And how important is it to Baltimore to have friends in high places?

"Well, I have to look to what friendly relations with President Clinton has meant," Gibson said. "There is no doubt Baltimore has benefited from Mayor Schmoke's support of Bill Clinton. Program by program, Baltimore gets what many people would consider more than its fair share of federal support."

With a Republican Congress, however, that is likely to change. But that will not hurt Schmoke's re-election, Gibson believes, because Baltimore will be even more dependent on state aid from Glendening.

And will Glendening provide it?

"I have reason to believe Parris Glendening is a smart politician and will do what is necessary to keep his base as he also tries to expand on it," Gibson said.

Even with all that, it cannot be forgotten that voters seem to be in an anti-incumbent mood and Schmoke will be the incumbent next year.

Or will he? The Schmoke camp has its own spin on that.

"Mayor Schmoke's opponent has been in city elective office even longer than Schmoke," Gibson said. "Besides, the current anti-incumbent mood may be less of a factor by next year."

Tuesday may have been a depressing day for Bill Clinton, but Gibson sees no reason for Kurt Schmoke to feel the same way.

"There is only thing for sure," Gibson said. "We will be here next year and Baltimoreans will be voting and we are not the least bit depressed."

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