A familiar face in Montgomery Candidate: Gov. Parris N. Glendening seems to have reason to visit every corner of vote-rich Montgomery County this week.

The Political Game

January 27, 1998|By C. Fraser Smith | C. Fraser Smith,SUN STAFF

They call Montgomery County the California of Maryland politics: big-money campaign contributors, star-quality officials of both parties and pockets of highly energized activists abound. Thus a good showing is critical to Gov. Parris N. Glendening's re-election hopes this year.

Recent polls show him faring somewhat worse now than in 1994, when Montgomery gave him a healthy part of his winning majority of just under 6,000 votes.

With ground to make up, Glendening can be expected to respond warmly to election year requests from county legislators.

He has already begun -- with the largess supplied by a budget surplus and by his very presence. A reading of his official schedule for this week makes the point.

Candidate Glendening began a Montgomery tour yesterday with stop at vote-rich Leisure World Club, the retirement community near Aspen Hill. Then he read to students at the nearby Oak View Elementary School, proceeding from there to a grand presentation and walking tour of redevelopment projects in downtown Silver Spring.

As he was driven down Colesville Road, he could glimpse a greeting above the long-vacant Silver Theater at Colesville and Georgia Avenue.

"Silver Spring Welcomes Governor Glendening," read the greeting in Valentine-red letters on the marquee.

Greeters were led by County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, wearing a county public works parka, hunter green in color, and offering to get one for the governor.

He might well have thrown in a pair of work boots and a cap with earmuffs, given what the governor had for him: a check for $21.5 million to help with the rehabbing.

"Nothing gets done by an individual," said a gracious Glendening. "It takes a team and Doug Duncan is the quarterback."

Officials called the investment "the embodiment of the governor's Smart Growth plan." What Glendening wants is full use of facilities that taxpayers have supplied with "infrastructure" -- water and sewer and school construction -- instead of building them anew in the deepest suburbs.

The governor mused yesterday about seeing classic films on the Silver's screen, and Duncan said, "I promised him 'Breakfast at Tiffany's.' "

Some have suggested that Montgomery pols, including Duncan, won't want to be seen on the same sample ballot with Glendening for the fall elections unless the governor's popularity takes an uptick. But they had no reluctance to be in the picture with the $21.5 million man yesterday -- quite the contrary.

Nor will the Glendening administration relax much in its courtship. The governor appears this morning at a breakfast with community leaders in Gaithersburg -- joined again by Duncan.

And it goes on.

Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend was to be the guest speaker today at a Character Education Information Night at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School.

On Thursday, the governor's due to be back, this time with the Maryland Building Industry Association Membership Dinner in Bethesda. On Friday afternoon, he is expected to read at Goshen Elementary School in Gaithersburg. And Sunday, he's at the Jewish Community Center in Rockville.

But will it work?

Not all by itself, says Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, who, like Duncan, has been at odds with the governor from time to time.

"Electorally," he said, "it's a two-step process. He's got to do the right things and then he's got to get some good media help to show people what he's done."

Governor's generosity extends to Howard County

At the same time these days, Glendening's got his high hardball aimed at Republicans.

Frustrated with the GOP's have-it-both-ways criticisms of his spending tendencies, Glendening was not amused when Republican legislators showed up at what lawmakers call a "begathon" -- an annual event before the Board of Public Works -- to pitch hard for construction dollars to build schools in their home districts.

Glendening wanted to know how they could encourage spending on their constituents while opposing it for others.

Then the GOP rhetoric began to fly: "political blackmail" and holding children "hostage" were among the formulations.

Not that Glendening turned his back on all Republicans. He's been almost as generous to Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker recently as he had been with Duncan.

For example, the state and county will split the $23.4 million cost of intersection work at U.S. 29 and Route 216. And the state will pick up most of the tab for the U.S. 29 intersection with Johns Hopkins and Gorman roads, work which does not have a firm price tag.

By the time all three intersections are built, Ecker said, the state will have paid about $40 million and the county will have paid $44 million.

Think of it as smart political growth.

Pub Date: 1/27/98

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