Schaefer mulls bid for comptroller Potential candidates scramble to meet filing deadline tonight

Glendening wants Duncan

Schoenke is expected to abandon his run for the State House

July 06, 1998|By Thomas W. Waldron and Craig Timberg | Thomas W. Waldron and Craig Timberg,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Neal Thompson contributed to this article.

With a critical deadline looming tonight, Maryland politicians are scrambling to find a successor to the late Louis L. Goldstein as state comptroller from a wide open field that includes Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan and former Gov. William Donald Schaefer.

Also today, Democrat Ray Schoenke is expected to abandon his bid to become governor after showing scant progress in the polls, said sources familiar with his thinking.

But the day could be dominated by Gov. Parris N. Glendening's choice to fill the comptroller's post, held for almost 40 years by Goldstein. Last night, his first choice appeared to be Duncan, who was weighing whether to accept, sources said.

Schaefer's possible re-entry into Maryland politics reflected the intense machinations prompted by Goldstein's death Friday night, which created a vacancy in a powerful state post only 72 hours before tonight's 9 p.m. deadline for filing a candidacy with the state elections board.

Today promises to provide an extraordinary dose of political jockeying -- even as Goldstein's body lies in state at the State House, an unprecedented honor for an elected official.

Among the decisions converging today:

Glendening was to appoint someone to fill out the rest of Goldstein's four-year term, which ends in January. The choice was not known last night, but the governor said in a statement that he would select someone who would finish the term and run in the fall election -- not simply a caretaker.

Along with Duncan, among those sounded out about the job by Glendening was House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., an Allegany County Democrat.

Duncan could not be reached. Taylor declined to comment.

"I'm certain that if Duncan would accept, Parris would appoint him," said Thomas V. Mike Miller, state Senate president.

Glendening's main Democratic opponent, Eileen M. Rehrmann, was considering switching to the comptroller's race after being urged to all weekend by several top Democrats, some of her allies said. But she said last night: "At this point, I'm running for governor."

On the Republican side, gubernatorial candidate Charles I. Ecker apparently had settled on his running mate -- trucking company executive Barbara J. Windsor of Frederick County -- but he said last night that he was weighing remaining in the race despite his poor showing in the polls.

The entrance of Schaefer -- perhaps the best-known politician in the state -- would be an astonishing development.

Sources close to Schaefer said the 76-year-old former governor was seriously considering the race for comptroller and seemed energized by the prospect of returning to politics.

Reached by phone last night, Schaefer said: "I'm not denying it, but I have no comment." But he later said that if Duncan runs for comptroller, he would not.

Schaefer was a Baltimore City Councilman for 16 years, Baltimore mayor for 15 years and Maryland governor for eight more before leaving public office in 1995.

By all accounts, his has been a restless retirement. Schaefer works for a Baltimore law firm and is a guest lecturer at the Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland, College Park.

This is not the first time that Schaefer's name has been floated as a candidate since he left office. Three years ago, Schaefer discussed running for mayor of Baltimore again but never filed.

In this year's governor's race, Schoenke, a former football player with the Washington Redskins, tapped into his own funds to purchase hundreds of thousands of dollars of air time for campaign commercials.

But Schoenke, who made millions from his Montgomery County insurance business, failed to make a significant showing in the polls and told associates in recent days that he would pull out today and support Glendening.

Schoenke, despite overtures over the weekend from some Democrats, told them he had no interest in running for comptroller. Schoenke was not available for comment last night.

In between campaign events, Rehrmann fielded calls yesterday from prominent Democrats urging her to switch and run for comptroller.

Rehrmann, the two-term Harford County executive, showed no sign yesterday that she was considering such a move. But privately, Rehrmann was weighing the comptroller's race, Democrats familiar with her thinking said last night.

Along with Rehrmann, several other Democrats were considering the race or had decided to run.

Among them was Baltimore Comptroller Joan M. Pratt, former Baltimore City Council President Mary Pat Clarke and former state Sen. Julian L. Lapides of Baltimore.

Clarke, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 1995, could not be reached for comment, but two close allies said she would file today. Pratt and Lapides said they would run.

"I think it's something I can handle," Pratt said. "Income taxes have been my life."

Republican leaders see an opportunity to win a statewide office for the first time since former Sen. Charles McC. Mathias was elected to his final term in 1980.

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