Schoenke selling his business to focus on gubernatorial race Insurance brokerage made candidate's fortune

Campaign 1998

June 16, 1998|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,SUN STAFF

Millionaire Democrat Raymond F. Schoenke Jr. announced yesterday he is selling the insurance brokerage that made him the fortune largely fueling his quest to become governor of Maryland.

Schoenke, who has pledged to spend $2 million or more of his own money and has purchased a flood of television commercials, said he wants to concentrate all his efforts on his uphill gubernatorial campaign.

"I'm excited by the opportunity to close this chapter and open a new chapter," he said at his firm's headquarters in Germantown, Montgomery County. "It gives me the time and energy."

Schoenke has signed a letter of intent to sell Schoenke & Associates, which has 35 employees and satellite offices in Honolulu, St. Louis and Dallas, to Clark/Bardes Inc., a nationwide brokerage based in Dallas.

He declined to reveal the sales price until the final details have been worked out. But he said Clark/Bardes would retain his employees and expand the operation in Germantown.

Some political observers called his move a way to dispel being tagged as a wealthy businessman flirting with politics. Schoenke's early, heavy television advertising, they said, also suggests that he is trying to emerge over the better-established Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann as the chief Democratic rival to Gov. Parris N. Glendening.

"Clearly, it could be something he and his strategists believe signals a definite commitment to stay in," said Donald F. Norris, a professor of policy sciences at University of Maryland, Baltimore County. "But one has to question what good it will do."

This month brought bad tidings for millionaire candidates, Norris pointed out: Three lost in primary elections in California.

Though he has contemplated selling his firm for some time, Schoenke acknowledged yesterday that it was "a very hard decision to make."

"It's like a child," he said about the business he founded more than two decades ago, selling big-ticket insurance to Maryland businesses. He retired as a Washington Redskins offensive lineman in 1976.

But in recent months, Schoenke found he was devoting nearly all his time to his campaign. On the walls of his office, he has posted lists of campaign contributors instead of clients' names.

Once the sale goes through, he said, he will not have a role with the new firm. But he will continue to run his campaign from his offices for now, though he also will open a half-dozen branches.

Pub Date: 6/16/98

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