McGuire campaign challenges the odds Candidate says he speaks on behalf of 'average citizen'

March 09, 1998|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,SUN STAFF

In the summer of 1970, young Dr. Terence A. McGuire opened his own small clinic in a working-class Washington suburb. Next to the entrance, he installed a simple stone plaque: "In honor of St. Jude -- Patron of Hopeless Cases."

Today, patients pass a new set of eye-catching signs in front of his old-fashioned office: "Terry McGuire for Governor."

To most political pundits and leaders of Maryland's Democratic establishment, McGuire's prospects of catapulting himself from obscurity into the State House would seem to require a saint's intervention. But the general practitioner from Seat Pleasant is waging his highly daunting primary challenge to Gov. Parris N. Glendening with plenty of hope.

"Isn't it time that the average citizen has a voice?" says McGuire, 55, whose campaign slogan is "A Voice for the Voiceless." "I'm fed up with the way government has been run in Maryland and on the national level. I feel the average person doesn't get their view across."

A mostly conservative Democrat who is pro-labor but anti-abortion, McGuire has worked on several local and statewide campaigns. But by last June, he had become so disillusioned with Democratic politics in the state, and especially Glendening, that he decided to run himself.

Magdalena McGuire was initially cool to her husband's sudden gubernatorial ambition. But he won her over by saying, "Frankly, it's something I feel I must do."

In virtually every election, a handful of people with little or no political experience feel compelled to run. They usually muster only about 2 to 3 percent of the vote in a statewide race, says Keith Haller, president of a Bethesda polling firm.

They pick up votes because of "frustration with the incumbent," Haller says, "or that perverse factor in American politics where some voters simply don't want to vote for a household name."

McGuire is the third long-shot Democratic candidate for governor, after Hagerstown planner Don Allensworth and former Washington Redskins football player Raymond F. Schoenke. The fourth Democrat to challenge Glendening is Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann.

Allensworth ran for governor in 1994 and garnered 3 percent of the vote. Schoenke, a successful insurance executive from Montgomery County, entered this year's race with a distinct advantage -- $2 million of his own money.

McGuire doesn't have Rehrmann's name recognition or Schoenke's personal fortune. But his solo practice in Prince George's County flourished so he could afford a home in Davidsonville, two farms, a training racetrack -- and now his gubernatorial bid.

He has lent his campaign $105,000 and raised another $18,100, according to his last campaign report. He is sending out fund-raising letters to groups he believes will approve of his platform, which includes requiring parental consent for abortion and no parole for violent offenders.

More than money, the slight, intense doctor has brought an impetuous enthusiasm to his "shoe-leather" quest, which he kicked off by buying a new pair of shoes.

"Dr. McGuire has a lot of folk-hero identity," says Samuel W. Bogley, an anti-abortion activist and former lieutenant governor under Harry Hughes, who is one of McGuire's volunteers.

That appeal is clear to McGuire's patients, who talk about how he listens to their problems and waives fees for those who cannot pay. But he is not known on the Democratic club circuit where political hopefuls usually begin their careers.

"He's never been involved in the district; he's never even introduced himself," says state Del. Marsha G. Perry, an Anne Arundel County Democrat.

Del. Brenda Hughes, however, says McGuire has fans inside the Washington Beltway, where he has kept his practice even after other businesses migrated to the outer suburbs.

"When you haven't been in politics, sometimes people think you don't have the right to run," says Delegate Hughes, a Prince George's Democrat. "He's always been very community oriented. If somebody came in and they were broke, he would treat them."

The youngest son of a plasterer and homemaker, McGuire grew up in Capitol Heights with "politics, pasta and Catholic schools."

In his senior year at Gonzaga, a Catholic high school in Washington, he played baseball with a team organized by the then-chairman of the Anne Arundel County Commissioners. He got involved in Democratic politics while attending Georgetown University and medical school at the University of Maryland.

In 1966, he campaigned for Tom Finan in the bruising four-way Democratic primary for governor. The surprise victory of George P. Mahoney, the Baltimorean who parlayed fear of crime into votes by declaring "your home is your castle," left a lasting impression.

"No one thought George Mahoney could win, either," McGuire recalls, though Mahoney later lost to Spiro T. Agnew. "When they asked how he thought he would win, he said he would run a shoe-leather campaign."

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