If Cardin couldn't win now, when? Candidates: The congressman backed out of the gubernatorial race in the face of Rehrmann's assertive stance. The development gladdens Glendening backers.

The Political Game

Campaign 1998

September 16, 1997|By C. Fraser Smith | C. Fraser Smith,SUN STAFF

RANDOM THOUGHTS from the political front line ...

It was never fair to suggest, based on his decision not to run for governor in 1986, that Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin didn't have a risk-taker's heart: He couldn't have won a race that was over as soon as William Donald Schaefer became a candidate. The acclaim of both people and party made the former mayor and governor a truly prohibitive favorite.

But what is one to say of a year in which the opponent, Gov. Parris N. Glendening, an incumbent whose approval ratings seem to fall even when he's doing well? If Cardin couldn't see a way to win now, when will he? And who will care? Contributors risked Glendening's anger by withholding support while they waited for Cardin to get in or out. They can't be happy.

For most of the summer, insiders guaranteed that a Cardin candidacy would drive all others from the field, chief among them Eileen M. Rehrmann, the Harford County executive who has been running since May.

Rehrmann kept saying she was in for keeps and her willingness to launch early paid off: She can't succeed herself in Harford, so the risk was reduced. But she spent the summer enhancing her status among the likes of Wayne K. Curry, the Prince George's County executive, and Larry S. Gibson, the campaign organizer from Baltimore. Gibson, who has formally joined her team, had begun advising her even before Cardin departed -- and Cardin knew it.

Suddenly, it was the congressman who moved out in the face of Rehrmann.

Glendening types were literally popping champagne corks, it is said, after Cardin's decision. An objective analysis would have to concede that he played his cards well.

If Cardin could be frightened out of the race, as virtually everyone thought, Glendening put all the fright masks in place: He promised big money to Prince George's County to win its support; his friends in labor and elsewhere raised the specter of fratricidal chaos; and he positioned himself as a man willing to fight bitterly to avoid becoming a "one-termer."

Now he confronts Rehrmann, whose threat at the moment resides in the mere fact of her presence: If there is an "anti" vote out there among Democrats, she will have first dibs on it. She could end up demonstrating the truth of Woody Allen's view that 90 percent of life (give or take) is just showing up.

Miller wants senators wired for quick action

And now, democracy in nanoseconds.

Got an e-mail for your state senator? Want your solons surfing the Web? Anxious to have your views considered, as the great men and women pass laws and make policy for you and your neighbors?

Never mind, unless you communicate with them when they're off the Senate floor. For the moment, that august chamber is a computer-free zone.

That could change, though, if state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller has his way. Miller has asked a special data systems panel to study the feasibility of installing a computer at the desks of all 47 members.

"Its greatest asset," he said of the computer, "is the type and amount of information that will be available to a senator while considering important matters."

A wired Senate would mean, he said, "the world at our fingertips," the wisdom of the world there for the accessing, downloading and digesting.

Because less paper would have to be distributed manually while the Senate is in session, floor automation, to some extent, would expedite the legislative process and make it more efficient, he said.

Except when it's "down"; or the newest new software is being installed; or when the online service gets a few more dedicated lines; or when the printer jams; or the clerks, absent for treatment of carpal tunnel, fail to update the bill status.

Aberdeen seeks state aid to help build baseball park

The city of Aberdeen will go to bat for $3.5 million in state capital construction funds next year so it can build a minor league baseball park.

The project is expected to cost $12 million in all, with $5 million coming from the city, $2 million from Peter Kirk, who owns several minor league teams and would place another one in Aberdeen, and $1.5 million from the county and other sources.

To plead its case before the assembly, Aberdeen has engaged -- at no fee, for the moment -- lobbyist Bruce C. Bereano.

Check-writers respond, raise $200,000 for Duncan

Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan raised $200,000 Thursday night at a fund-raiser sponsored in part by nursing home and hotel chain owner Stewart Bainum Jr. Backers included Orioles owner Peter Angelos, Mercantile Bank boss H. Furlong Baldwin, Baltimore businessman Buddy Zamoiski, and R. Robert Linowes, a Washington lawyer.

Seen as a solid star of the near future -- and a strong player now -- Duncan's prowess among the check-writers helps to validate his status.

Pub Date: 9/16/97

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