Governor sees his future in city vote

The Political Game

September 19, 1995|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,SUN STAFF

Among the big winners in Baltimore's election last week was Gov. Parris N. Glendening, who quietly -- though intently -- watched the mayoral race with an eye toward his 1998 re-election bid.

Because Mr. Glendening last year carried only three of the state's 24 jurisdictions -- Baltimore City, Prince George's County and Montgomery County -- the city vote is an essential element of his three-legged stool of support.

Mr. Glendening, who squeaked to the State House last year by a 5,993-vote margin, was no doubt relieved by the whopping victory of his buddy, incumbent Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.

"Nice turnout," said John T. Willis, the Maryland secretary of state and Mr. Glendening's chief political strategist. "That was one of the things I was looking at with great interest."

"They were good margins, very good margins. And that's all very good for '96 and '98," Mr. Willis said, referring to President Clinton's re-election effort next year, as well as the governor's shot at a second term.

He conceded that the battleground for the 1998 gubernatorial race is uncharted, dependent on such unforeseeable things as the outcome of the presidential race, how Mr. Glendening plays among voters in the next three years and who might emerge as competition.

But looking down the road from this point, Mr. Willis said, "The governor's participation and assistance with the mayor was mutually beneficial."

That would be known as understatement.

"It strengthens the lock-hold for Glendening," said Herbert C. Smith, a political science professor at Western Maryland College who knows his way around city and state politics.

"Glendening did a very visible endorsement and lent the prestige of the gubernatorial office," Mr. Smith said. "In the great game of politics, he put one on the board in the 'W' column."

Mr. Glendening's Get Out The Vote (G-O-T-V) effort last year was crucial to his win over Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey. Pressure for a high city turnout mounted in the closing days of the gubernatorial campaign as Mr. Glendening watched his one-time lead shrivel to virtually nothing.

Publicly, Mr. Glendening was said to be counting on Larry S. Gibson, Mr. Schmoke's political handler and campaign manager. Yet, Glendening aides and Democratic party leaders privately questioned whether Mr. Gibson's reputation as a political leader "who could deliver" was nothing more than a media myth.

They had complained quietly about Mr. Gibson's handling of the primary and, for the general election, relegated him to "visibility" -- mostly responsible for lawn signs and sound trucks. On election night in November, as Mr. Gibson crunched numbers in his campaign bunker at Mount Clare Station, the G-O-T-V powerhouse who emerged was state Sen. Larry Young, West Baltimore's 44th District leader.

But any lingering questions about Mr. Gibson were blasted away last week, when Mr. Schmoke trounced challenger Mary Pat Clarke by a stunning 20 percentage points.

"Larry Gibson's gotten better and better at it," Mr. Smith said. "What Gibson has established is the political infrastructure, the Election Day infrastructure, to deliver a staggering vote out of West Baltimore."

And that ultimately could serve the governor well.

Maryland GOP gets new executive director

The Maryland Republican Party has a new executive director. Christopher R. West, a 45-year-old lawyer from Ruxton who has long been active in the GOP, took over the day-to-day reins of the party last month.

Mr. West succeeds Lance D. Copsey, who quit in June to become Northeast political director for the presidential campaign of Lamar Alexander.

Among other GOP efforts, Mr. West worked on Richard D. Bennett's bid for attorney general and on Ellen R. Sauerbrey's gubernatorial campaign.

The Political Game now runs Tuesday. Education Beat is moving to Wednesday and Sunday.

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