Schoenke attacks governor as he starts campaign Ex-football player criticizes 'mediocrity'

Campaign 1998

January 21, 1998|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,SUN STAFF

With little name recognition but a large bankroll, insurance executive Raymond F. Schoenke Jr. made his political debut yesterday by launching a bid to become Maryland's next governor.

Most often recognized as a former Washington Redskins football player, the successful businessman from Montgomery County entered the Democratic contest with $2 million of his own money and a denunciation of his party's incumbent, Gov. Parris N. Glendening.

In his first campaign speech, delivered at a noon rally in the shadow of the State House, Schoenke promised to bring his business expertise to running state government and offered general criticisms of Glendening but few specifics for change.

"We are awash in mediocrity and petty corruption. And I blame that on Parris Glendening," Schoenke told a shivering but cheering crowd of about 50 supporters.

The 56-year-old Schoenke is the fourth Democrat to challenge Glendening, after Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann, Davidsonville physician Dr. Terry McGuire and Hagerstown land-use planner Don Allensworth.

Disillusioned with Glendening, whom he backed in 1994, Schoenke had looked to Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin to enter the race. When Cardin decided to instead seek a seventh term as Maryland's 3rd District congressman, Schoenke said he could no longer "sit on the sidelines and point out how someone could do the job better."

"I'm not happy with the status quo in our state," he said. "If we can't improve education now, in the best of times, when can we? If we can't make life better for our families now, in the best of times, when can we? If our businesses are not thriving, in the best of times, when will they?"

He pointed to several of Glendening's highly publicized embarrassments, including lucrative pension benefits that he and top aides were set to receive when he left office as Prince George's county executive.

His entry, at the very least, will be an irritant for the Glendening campaign, which might be forced to spend resources on counterattacks that it would rather save for the general election. But with the better-known Rehrmann and two other underdog candidates in the race, Schoenke also is likely to further splinter the anti-Glendening vote.

The Glendening campaign dismissed Schoenke's criticisms as "bizarre."

Maryland is enjoying greater prosperity than in years, said Glendening's campaign chairman, former Rep. Michael D. Barnes, who also noted the governor's efforts to improve schools and control growth.

"I'm disappointed that Ray has decided to run what is obviously a totally negative campaign," Barnes said. "I don't know what state Ray Schoenke is describing but it isn't Maryland."

Though a longtime Democratic activist, Schoenke has no experience in public office and is largely unknown beyond Montgomery County, where he runs an insurance business that has made him a fortune.

He has a distinct advantage because of his willingness to rTC finance his effort. He has hired top pollsters and political consultants in Washington, including William Hamilton and Matt

Reese, who worked on campaigns for President John F. Kennedy and former Gov. John Y. Brown of Kentucky.

"What money buys you more than anything else is time," said Matthew A. Crenson, a political scientist at the Johns Hopkins University.

He noted that other millionaire candidates have failed despite their cash, including Republican presidential candidate Steve Forbes. But, he said, "A candidate without money has to spend an enormous amount of time, early on, raising money instead of being out courting the public. When wealthy people enter an election, they save a lot of that time."

Schoenke has mapped out an ambitious itinerary to introduce himself. Beginning today, he will crisscross the state from Western Maryland to the Eastern Shore to give interviews on local radio stations and appear at Rotary and Kiwanis Club meetings.

Even with his own cash, Schoenke says he intends to organize fund-raisers to increase his visibility and get other Democrats disenchanted with Glendening to become involved in his campaign.

Born in Hawaii, Schoenke grew up in Texas, moving to different Army posts with his sergeant father. He credits his Hawaiian mother for his drive and his compassion for those struggling to make it in society. His mother "didn't learn English until she was in her teens. She was told that poor Hawaiians, like her, could not succeed," he said. "She did not believe it, and she made

sure I did not believe it either."

He graduated from Southern Methodist University, where he was an academic and athletic All-American. For the next 12 years, he played in the National Football League, first picked by the Dallas Cowboys in the 1963 draft and later as a lineman with the Redskins from 1966 to 1975.

In 1972, he organized a group of athletes to support George McGovern for president. He also was national chairman of Artists and Athletes for President Jimmy Carter in 1980.

After he retired from the Redskins, Schoenke flirted with the idea of running for office but said he decided he did not want to be "a career politician."

Now, he concedes, many voters will say: "Ray who?" But he said, he hopes "eventually everyone will know who I am."

Profile

Raymond F. Schoenke Jr.

Age: 56

Party: Democrat

Home: Laytonsville, Montgomery County

Family: Wife, Nancy, and three children

Education: Bachelor's degress in history, Southern Methodist University

Experience: Professional football player, Dallas Cowboys, 1963-1964; Washington Redskins, 1966-1975.

Founder and chief executive officer of Schoenke & Associates, and insurance brokerage based in Germantown, 1976 to present.

Pub Date: 1/21/98

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