No plans to form ticket now, but... Primary: An insurance magnate and county executive are challenging the incumbent governor, but they might fare better by combining their efforts.

The Political Game

May 19, 1998|By C. Fraser Smith | C. Fraser Smith,SUN STAFF

WILL IT BE Schoenke-Rehrmann or Rehrmann- Schoenke? Has to be one or the other, right?

If you recognize the names, you're wondering: Can Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann or insurance man Raymond F. Schoenke Jr. hope to succeed as Democratic candidates for governor on their own?

It may seem harsh to say, but each of them seems to be about half a candidate. Rehrmann has plenty of experience, Schoenke plenty of money. Both are long shots who believe anti-Glendening sentiment could carry them to victory in September's primary.

But if they don't form a ticket, they could just split the anti-vote, guaranteeing another four years for their opponent, incumbent Parris N. Glendening.

Both challenging camps insist they're making no merger plans at the moment, but they're taking care to avoid hurtful criticisms of each other should the arguments for a political marriage become irrefutable.

At that time -- if it hasn't arrived already -- the question will be this: Should money or experience command the top spot? Strong arguments can be made on both sides -- and the force of ego has to be factored in heavily. Both might harbor the conviction that each alone has the potential to win it -- catch lightning in a bottle. But sources say some level of discussion about teaming up has begun.

Similar discussions, equally if not more compelling, continue on the GOP side of the teeter-totter. Is there any possibility, for example, that GOP front-runner Ellen R. Sauerbrey would pick Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker as her 1998 running mate? Until recently, the answer has seemed to be "None."

For Sauerbrey and the Republicans, the questions are at least as complicated and critical as they are for Rehrmann- Schoenke or Schoenke- Rehrmann.

Four years ago, Sauerbrey and her running mate, Paul H. Rappaport, took almost 50 percent of the vote in their race against Glendening and his lieutenant governor, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. So why would Sauerbrey even think about changing?

She might not change. But, if she does, the idea will be to broaden her base, to reach out for voters who might be somewhat more moderate than she -- to demonstrate that she can compromise and truly wants to win as opposed to making ideological points.

Ecker could help. A comfortable, engaging man who is well-regarded as an administrator, Ecker would be seen as a strong partner -- and someone whose selection would speak for itself when she is asked why she dropped Rappaport.

To make such a switch, Sauerbrey has to reach an accommodation with her core of right-wing supporters who resist any suggestion that politics is different from ideology. Real-world politics demand compromises. Ideologues see compromises as tantamount to treason.

Sauerbrey, who must appeal again to a Maryland constituency that has been decidedly Democratic, might need to demonstrate leadership growth -- acceptance that a Sauerbrey administration would address all Marylanders. She will have few other moments to make an affirmative step all of her own to show such determination. That decision could say a great deal about the real Ellen Sauerbrey.

Within her camp, the 69-year-old Ecker's star could be slightly higher these days because the conservative voices might not see him as a long-term threat. At the end of four or eight years of Sauerbrey, that is, they figure they would not face a "moderate" with gubernatorial ambitions of his own and a leg up on the party nomination.

If these considerations become too baroque, Sauerbrey could come back to Rappaport, a distinguished-looking running mate who certainly did her no harm the last time. If there are no obviously superior and willing choices, he might look like the safest bet.

Glendening fetes Schaefer at dinner for Democrats

Glendening offered a warm tribute to his predecessor, William Donald Schaefer, during a Democratic Party dinner last week.

Running down a long list of well-known public works projects accomplished in Baltimore and throughout the state during the past 20 years, Glendening gave Schaefer credit for all of them -- before giving him a party award.

For his part, Schaefer said he thought Glendening and the Assembly had achieved one of the most productive legislative sessions in history this year.

Schaefer might yet offer Glendening an endorsement for re-election, but he stopped short of that last week. Timing in such matters is everything and as impatient as the former mayor and governor has seemed, he's always had a keen sense of when to do or say something.

Is Schaefer giving tips to Glendening on neckties?

Everyone thinks Sauerbrey is anxious to show the world a more accommodating, gentler side.

It must be going around, this image thing. At last week's Alibi Breakfast before the Preakness, Glendening posted with a "Save the Children" necktie, featuring children's art.

"Family" is, of course, a Glendening theme. But nothing has seemed sufficiently compelling before to separate the chief executive from his collection of striped neckwear.

Sometimes the stripes are bright, but that's as daring as it gets.

Reminds some of the late-career fascination with fancy cravats adopted by Schaefer. Hmmmm. Hasn't the former governor been advising the incumbent recently?

Surely they're talking about how to be warm and fuzzy candidates, adoring of the press, but whodathunk they'd be exchanging fashion notes?

Pub Date: 5/19/98

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