Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann appears poised to announce that she will try to wrest the Democratic nomination for governor in 1998 away from Gov. Parris N. Glendening.
While she has been noncommittal in public, the Bel Air Democrat has been telling potential supporters in her county and around the state that she has decided to run against Glendening.
In an interview, Rehrmann said only that she is "looking at running for governor." She would neither confirm nor deny that she has gone further in private conversations.
However, three sources active in Maryland politics, each of whom asked not to be identified, said Rehrmann has told them she has made up her mind.
In the interview, Rehrmann made no attempt to hide her unhappiness with Glendening, whose popularity has tumbled after a series of political missteps. She said that wherever she has traveled in the state recently, people have urged her to run.
"They really have been stopping me and expressing their concern about the lack of direction in the state," she said. "I've had a lot of encouragement from a broad base of support -- from community leaders, business leaders, citizens on the street, elected officials."
Judi Scioli, the governor's press secretary, brushed off Rehrmann's comments.
"The governor is not concerned with reports about who may or may not run in 1998. He is concerned about running the state, which he is doing very well," Scioli said.
Rehrmann, 51, has been one of several leading Democrats who DTC have been mentioned as potential challengers to the governor, including Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger, Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan and House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr.
All have to varying degrees indicated an interest in running if Glendening's popularity doesn't rebound. But Rehrmann's statements are the bluntest challenge to the governor to date from within his party.
Asked whether she is concerned about going up against an incumbent governor who has amassed a considerable campaign treasury, Rehrmann said no.
"I've never shied away from a difficult challenge," she said.
Del. Nancy Jacobs, a Harford County Republican who is friendly with Rehrmann, was not surprised to hear the county executive is close to entering the race for governor. "In Harford County, that's what we all believe she's doing. It's a given," Jacobs said.
Rehrmann, a fiscal conservative who favors abortion rights, has been a popular figure in her increasingly Republican home county, where she easily won re-election in 1994. She attended a meeting of potential Glendening opponents last month at the home of former state Sen. Stewart Bainum Jr. -- a gathering the governor publicly denounced.
Unlike Ruppersberger, Duncan and Taylor, Rehrmann cannot run for re-election to her current position in 1998. Earlier this year, she openly considered a run for state comptroller in 1998 but abandoned that idea when Louis L. Goldstein announced he would seek re-election.
Rehrmann would enter the gubernatorial race as a decided underdog. She lacks statewide name recognition, and no Harford County resident has ever been elected governor. (Augustus Bradford was born there, but had moved to Baltimore County by the time he was elected in 1862.)
However, Rehrmann has an extensive network of contacts throughout the state dating to her eight years in the House of Delegates, where she earned a reputation as a perceptive, hard-working legislator.
"She would be a very formidable candidate," said Gary Alexander, an Annapolis lobbyist and former delegate who served with Rehrmann on the Appropriations Committee.
Pub Date: 10/30/96