The right running mate can make a difference in a governor's race

June 07, 1998|By Barry Rascovar

It's running mate time. A month from today, every candidate for governor must have a lieutenant governor to call his or her own. They run as a ticket in Maryland, joined at the hip.

Coming up with the ideal partner is never easy.

Often, candidates for governor seek geographic balance. Thus, the first time Marylanders chose a team for the top state offices, in 1974, Gov. Marvin Mandel of Baltimore ran with Blair Lee III of Montgomery County. It was an excellent marriage.

The next governor, Harry R. Hughes, chose his mate in desperation -- and paid the price. Samuel W. Bogley, an obscure Prince George's councilman, was asked at the last moment when Mr. Hughes, a decided long shot, couldn't find anyone else. Once in office, the two feuded bitterly.

Other gubernatorial candidates in 1978 sought a geographic edge. Mr. Lee took Senate President Steny H. Hoyer of Prince George's County to solidify his vote in the Washington suburbs. Baltimore City Council President Walter S. Orlinsky found partner in Frederick Mayor Ronald N. Young. Baltimore County Executive Theodore G. Venetoulis opted for an outspoken Anne Arundel County councilwoman, Ann Stockett.

Former GOP Sen. J. Glenn Beall Jr. of Cumberland tried for a geographic and racial edge: He ran with a black legislator from Annapolis, Dr. Aris T. Allen.

It didn't matter. Mr. Hughes won in a landslide, thanks to his anti-corruption message, not his choice of running mate.

The lieutenant governor candidates weren't pivotal in the last election, either. You'd be hard-pressed to recall their names.

Perhaps Parris N. Glendening understood this best. In 1994, he chose Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who had never held elected office, mainly for her fund-raising prowess. That gave him an edge.

How do others counter the Glendening-Townsend ticket in this year's election?

The governor's prime Democratic foe, Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann, has a number of enticing options.

She could turn to former Montgomery County Executive Sidney Kramer. Ms. Rehrmann badly needs a big Montgomery vote.

Or she could choose a popular ex-legislator from another key jurisdiction, Prince George's County's Timothy F. Maloney. Or someone with prior State House experience -- ex-House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell of Kent County.

But perhaps the most intriguing move would be to select a nonpolitician who has made a recent splash: former Economic Development Secretary James T. Brady, who quit after becoming increasingly disillusioned with Mr. Glendening's halfhearted efforts to improve the state's business climate.

Mr. Brady has embarked on a quixotic bit of day dreaming -- running as an independent for governor. It is the longest of long shots. He may win the vote in the business community, but that's a fraction of the electorate.

Once Mr. Brady comes to his senses, he might want to look at a more realistic strategy. A Rehrmann-Brady ticket could match Mr. Glendening in raising campaign funds and would be quite formidable: A skilled and proven county executive running with a skilled and experienced business executive. As champions of the business community, they could make economic development a major campaign issue.

Meanwhile, the Republican front-runner, Ellen R. Sauerbrey, is leaning toward her 1994 mate, former Howard County Sheriff Paul H. Rappaport. It would be a safe choice to mollify her core conservative supporters. But it doesn't broaden her base.

Nor would Howard County Del. John S. Morgan help widen her appeal. Indeed, Mr. Morgan's strident conservatism could alienate undecided Democrats.

Another possibility, ex-U.S. Attorney Richard D. Bennett, ran a strong 1994 race for attorney general. He is a dynamic campaigner and fund-raiser, but party conservatives dislike his moderation. He also hails from the same county (Baltimore) as Ms. Sauerbrey.

Meanwhile, Ms. Sauerbrey's primary foe, Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker, faces the problem of most long shots: Finding someone willing to run.

One intriguing partner would be the 1990 GOP nominee for governor, William S. Shepard of Potomac. He's known among Republicans and would help Mr. Ecker in Montgomery County, which casts one-fifth of the GOP vote. (But he's also known as the guy who picked his wife as his running mate in 1990.)

Does the choice of a lieutenant governor matter? Not if the top candidate has appeal.

But for those playing catch-up, selection of the right political partner could provide a much-needed boost. The ones who choose wisely may see their fortunes turn sharply positive.

Barry Rascovar is a deputy editorial page editor for The Sun.

Pub Date: 6/07/98

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