The African violets were an unmistakable sign of springtime in the bitterly cold relationship between Gov. Parris N. Glendening and his predecessor, William Donald Schaefer.
Knowing that Schaefer loves the delicate purple flower, a suddenly solicitous Glendening staff put them out in profusion when Maryland's 58th governor came back to the State House to hear high praise for his career and to watch the hanging of his portrait.
Glendening's effusive observations were in stark contrast to his treatment of Schaefer over the previous two years, years in which he seemed bent on humiliating the former Baltimore mayor at every opportunity, slighting him in public and withdrawing an important appointment.
But at the instigation of influential advisers of both men, Glendening was changing his tone on that day just over a year ago, and he has been working to make Schaefer a confidant and supporter. In recent weeks, the governor's attentiveness has intensified.
Glendening called Schaefer to wish him happy birthday in November, handed out rhetorical bouquets when Baltimore-Washington International Airport's international terminal was dedicated to Schaefer in December, and invited Schaefer to accompany the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra on its tour of Japan as his personal representative.
He lunched with Schaefer 10 days ago at the Maryland Inn in Annapolis. And at the Maryland Waterman's Association Dinner in Ocean City, they turned up together again, with Schaefer taking the trouble to introduce the governor to members and their guests.
Noted for unrelenting attention to the mechanics of politics, Glendening's motivation seems clear: With three Democratic primary opponents, a low standing in polls and the specter of another strong Republican challenge in the general election this fall, he does not need more opponents. A new friend might help.
Thus his new feelings for Schaefer, who enjoys deep respect and gratitude from many Baltimore voters, including a number of wealthy campaign contributors. Glendening might well try to show them he's trying to feel the way they do about the man who is credited with pulling Baltimore back from the abyss.
'He enjoys being courted'
Schaefer's willingness to consider the roles Glendening has thrust upon him - after two years of public humiliation - may be rooted in a desire to reclaim the status he once enjoyed within the Democratic Party.
In 1992, he shocked his peers by endorsing Republican George Bush in that year's campaign against Bill Clinton. Some of Schaefer's longtime friends took their pictures of him off the walls on the morning after. If he were to resurface now, stifling his more-than-understandable unhappiness with Glendening, party leaders might see it as adequate contrition and recompense.
Beyond that, Schaefer has never been a fan of Ellen R. Sauerbrey, the leading Republican candidate. And he would like to be seen as an elder statesman, someone whose views on public affairs are valued and sought after.
"He enjoys being courted," said a friend.
Series of slights
Until these days of sunshine and flowers, Glendening seemed determined to express disdain for Schaefer at every opportunity. He did not schedule the portrait installation for two years, for example - a delay noticed by Schaefer's friends.
In October 1995, he refused to appoint Schaefer to the St. Mary's College board of trustees on the grounds that Schaefer was thinking about running again for mayor of Baltimore. Only after other Democrats insisted - and Schaefer remained a noncandidate - did Glendening make the appointment.
Then he chose not to have Schaefer stand with him in November 1995 when he announced that the National Football League was returning to Baltimore, though all of Maryland knew Schaefer had spent more than 10 years trying to make that happen - had, in fact, prepared the financial offer that finally brought a new team to town.
When ground was to be broken for the Baltimore Ravens' new park, Glendening issued a belated invitation - and Schaefer declined, choosing to stand with the crowd. The owners of the Orioles and Ravens have agreed to name the two-stadium complex after Schaefer - but Glendening has appeared to stand in the way.
History of discord
Precisely when these men decided to dislike each other is difficult to pinpoint, but goes back at least to the early 1990s. Schaefer was presiding over a state budget sharply eroded by recession. Glendening, the Prince George's County executive, occasionally criticized him for cutting in areas where Glendening would not have.
"He hit me pretty hard," Schaefer recalled last week. "I called to tell him how I felt and to remind him how much the state had done for his county."
Schaefer thought Glendening, already running for governor, wanted to stand distinctly apart from Schaefer, whose budget-cutting had sliced deeply into his public backing.