Settling for the governor's job Contender: Harford County Executive Rehrmann may now target Glendening after Goldstein, the entrenched comptroller, announces he'll run again.

The Political Game

June 25, 1996|By C. Fraser Smith | C. Fraser Smith,SUN STAFF

LOOKS LIKE Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann won't be Maryland's next comptroller.

She might have to settle for governor.

The indefatigable and probably unbeatable Louis L. Goldstein, having reversed an earlier decision to retire after 10 terms, leaves Ms. Rehrmann to challenge an incumbent with less seniority, one Parris N. Glendening.

She joins a crowded field of "potential" contenders in the Democrat's 1998 gubernatorial primary.

House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. of Allegany County, who holds a $250-per-ticket fund-raiser tonight, is one of these. So are Democratic County Executives Doug Duncan (Montgomery) and C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger III (Baltimore), who is also raising funds this evening. Others may be calculating the odds as well.

None of these three worthies may ultimately risk a run against so shrewd and well-financed an incumbent as Glendening.

Thus, the argument for Ms. Rehrmann grows stronger: She might take the shot because, unlike many of the others, she will have no office to lose. Limited to two terms as county executive, she's finishing her second in Harford and can't run for re-election. She has said little publicly about her electoral inclinations, and she was unavailable for comment yesterday.

But her backers say she is a good fit for these lean government times:

While other counties in her region were forced to withhold pay increases, Ms. Rehrmann offered a 2 percent boost as part of a $261 million budget that raises spending by an impressive -- for these times -- 9.4 percent.

Also, the county's debt is relatively low, thanks to the pay-as-you-go orthodoxy she followed. Its $219-per-person debt load is by far the lowest in the region.

State School Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick points to Harford as a jurisdiction that spends wisely on education; it typically ranks low in expenditures, but high in test scores. She sought a $500,000 fund to reward schools that show marked improvement or high education achievement.

Rehrmann's friends say she has the courage to run against a wealthy incumbent -- and would have some generous backers.

Dust in the wind, say those who contend Glendening is only somewhat less unbeatable than Comptroller Goldstein. Still, can anyone wonder why the governor spends so much of his energy raising money for a campaign that won't begin for more than two years?

And then there are the governor's financial needs associated with running the state of Maryland.

To settle a school funding lawsuit, he has offered Baltimore $140 million more over four years in additional operating funds -- even as his tax collectors and number-crunchers say the state faces a budget deficit of $241 million in the coming fiscal year.

In addition to that total of $381 million, the governor wants to pursue other costly initiatives: suburban sprawl, for example. That objective could be a costly one, says Del. D. Bruce Poole, a Hagerstown Democrat. Farmers and others who wish to sell their land to developers might have to be compensated for a loss of equity if the state seeks to deny that use. Agricultural land preservation programs already in place offer allowances for those who hold their property out of development now, but too slowly and sometimes inadequately, Poole says.

"There's just not enough money in those funds now," he said.

With so many political and policy problems to solve, the governor's repeated warning that a tax cut may not be not feasible in the near future seems even more understandable.

Another name mentioned as successor to Murphy

An intriguing name has been added to the list of those mentioned as possible successors to Robert C. Murphy, chief judge of the Court of Appeals. Judge Murphy must retire this fall when he reaches the age of 70. Though jurists shudder to think it could be so, a modicum of politics may enter into the question of succession.

It is intriguing then that the unofficial list reportedly includes Michael A. Millemann, director of the clinical law program at the University of Maryland. Known to his friends as the workaholic's role model, Millemann is a pioneer in development of legal aid programs and an active campaigner against the death penalty.

He is a longtime friend and associate of Larry Gibson, a political power in Maryland and chief elections adviser to Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.

Those qualifications for a political appointment are impressive, to be sure, but the front-runner for this job appears to be Court of Appeals Judge Robert M. Bell. Millemann may have to settle for having been prominently mentioned -- and given his commitment to the work he does that may be plenty.

Pub Date: 6/25/96

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