Raymond F. Schoenke Jr., a former Washington Redskins football player who made a fortune selling insurance, says he will enter the Democratic primary for governor within 10 days, bringing a campaign fund of $2 million and a sharp critique of Gov. Parris N. Glendening.
A three-page letter announcing his decision to run went out Monday to 7,700 Marylanders, Republicans and Democrats, said Chuck Miller, the Schoenke campaign's press secretary.
In a copy of the letter obtained by The Sun, Schoenke says Glendening "has been happy to sit contentedly on the sidelines and take credit for America's economic surge while raising campaign money instead of test scores."
Having explored the possibility of a primary challenge for several months, Schoenke plans to make it official, possibly Tuesday, Miller said. Only the details remain to be worked out, he said.
Schoenke would become the third Democrat to challenge Glendening, following Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann and Davidsonville physician Dr. Terry McGuire, who practices in Seat Pleasant.
The 55-year-old Schoenke would enter the race as a distinct underdog, but his willingness to generously finance his effort will be a major advantage that could cause significant problems for Glendening even if it falls short.
Although millionaires often have failed to win on the strength of their checkbooks, some wealthy candidates have financed victories by using their money to develop a base and get out a message that catches voters' imaginations.
Schoenke has hired some of the best political consultants and media advisers in Washington, including William Hamilton and Matt Reese, who worked on campaigns for President John F. Kennedy, former Gov. John Y. Brown of Kentucky and other Democrats.
"Money in a campaign," said Ron Fauchex of the Washington-based magazine Campaigns and Elections, "can buy you the one thing you can buy in politics without going to jail: name recognition. Against an incumbent, you have to have equivalent name recognition to play."
Schoenke's cash will buy exposure to voters via television ads, which will introduce the challenger and criticize the incumbent. That could be a big problem for Glendening, who might find himself obliged to respond with ads that would deplete resources he might otherwise reserve for his general election battle with the Republicans.
Glendening's campaign chairman, former U.S. Rep. Michael D. Barnes, declined to comment on Schoenke's letter or his candidacy until it is official.
Rehrmann said Schoenke's candidacy would have no effect on her campaign.
She recalled that she entered the primary race in May at a time when such better-known Democrats as House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. and U.S. Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin were still considering a candidacy. Both decided to pass.
"I made a decision. I stuck to that, and I'll continue to stick to it," said Rehrmann. "This campaign is really about Parris Glendening."
McGuire said of Schoenke: "He has as much right to be in the race as anyone. I welcome him."
Critical of governor
Asked about Schoenke's criticisms of the governor's education funding in light of a move this week by Glendening to increase support for state colleges, Miller said, "The governor has had three years to do this. The people of Maryland can decide if what he's done is too little too late."
Glendening's delay has resulted in the departure of University of Maryland, College Park President William E. Kirwan for Ohio State University, Miller said. Kirwan had indicated unhappiness with the support for College Park, but he also said he had an offer he could not refuse.
Schoenke's letter and appeal for Democratic support appeared to outline the emphasis of his campaign. He began by quoting the "best of times, worst of times" opening of Charles Dickens' "Tale of Two Cities."
"In the best of times we have to pay for a $300 million stadium the governor gave a rich man as a gift," the letter said, reflecting conclusions drawn from research that finds unhappiness about the new Ravens football stadium "off the charts" among voters, a Schoenke associate said.
"Let me be the first to admit that I don't have the political experience of the incumbent governor. I have no experience at giving away $300 million of your money. I have no experience at having taxpayers pay for my pension," Schoenke wrote in a slap at the governor's move to improve his pension before leaving his post as Prince George's County executive.
Schoenke has said he will offer himself to Maryland Democrats as a somewhat liberal businessman, campaigning for smart management of public resources and compassion for society's have-nots.
"My native Hawaiian mother spoke no English until she was in her teens," he wrote. "She was told that the poor, that native Hawaiians, people like her and me could not succeed. But she always told me I could not only survive but could excel if I was willing to work harder and longer than others."
Schoenke's message could provide further difficulties for the incumbent if it gives him access to minority voters. who can claim credit for much of Glendening's winning margin in 1994, when he defeated Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey by fewer than 6,000 votes.
Pub Date: 1/10/98