Resisting the allure of a more winnable contest, Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann resolved again yesterday to oust her party's incumbent governor, Parris N. Glendening -- a decision that promises a spirited Democratic gubernatorial primary.
The death of Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein on Friday presented unexpected opportunity which, Rehrmann said, a number of Democrats urged her to take.
But she said voters across the state are hungry for the reliability she promises.
"We have a governor who's more interested in his future than Maryland's future," she said. "We need a governor we can count on. If I didn't believe that, I would have gotten into the comptroller's race."
Rehrmann's decision almost certainly means Glendening will be forced to spend precious resources during the primary -- money he might have saved for the general election if she had not been in the race challenging his trustworthiness and attacking his record.
Her decision came on the same day another Democratic contender, Raymond F. Schoenke Jr. of Montgomery County, quit the race, calling Glendening's lead over the primary field virtually insuperable. He said only negative campaigning could have made him competitive.
Maryland Republicans also will have a contested primary as Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker chose a Frederick businesswoman to run on his ticket for lieutenant governor. His choice is Barbara J. Windsor, 48, executive vice president of Hahn Transportation, her family's Frederick County-based trucking business. She has no political experience.
While Rehrmann was re-asserting the view that she is the only Democrat who can defeat Republican front-runner Ellen R. Sauerbrey, Schoenke urged Rehrmann to leave the race, in the name of party unity.
But the 53-year-old Rehrmann scorned Schoenke's lack of resolve. Rejecting his conclusion that Glendening is unbeatable, she recalled that Schoenke, too, had been highly critical of the governor.
"Here's a guy," she said, "who calls the governor a chameleon, but when he sees his own chances aren't good, says 'Let's come together.' I've never been that type of person."
Asked if she agreed that only negative campaigning would bring victory, she said: "Any time you're involved in an election, you're asking someone to fire someone else and hire you."
Glendening's spokesman, Peter S. Hamm, responded sharply to Rehrmann's comments.
"With all the maneuvering Eileen Rehrmann has been doing for the last three days, she could teach us all something about looking for her own future instead of Maryland's future," he said. "While this governor was working hard to carefully examine the various options at appointing a replacement for Mr. Goldstein, Eileen Rehrmann stays out there slinging mud.
"This governor," he said, "has looked out for Maryland's future for four years and will be looking out for Maryland's future long after Eileen Rehrmann's political obituary has been written."
With endorsements from Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and Prince George's County Executive Wayne K. Curry, Rehrmann's candidacy could well be more than a minor irritant to the incumbent. Their star quality is backed by Larry S. Gibson, an adviser to both men as well as an experienced campaign manager.
Rehrmann made clear yesterday she will not hesitate to remind voters of Glendening's record, citing the governor's claim that he didn't leave Prince George's in bad financial shape when he left the county executive's office there in 1994. "Give me a break," she said. "There was an audit done that confirmed that."
And she mentioned the enhanced pension benefits Glendening and some of his top staff were to receive when they left office in Prince George's. "They only gave it back after a lot of pressure," she said.
Rehrmann said her phone rang constantly over the weekend as Democratic friends urged her to run for Goldstein's seat. Her fiscal skills -- learned during eight years on the House Appropriations Committee and eight more as Harford County executive -- are a perfect fit for the comptroller's office, they said.
"I told them I viewed it as even more important to have a governor with those skills," she said.
Rehrmann never received a direct appeal from the Glendening campaign, but, she said, some of her Democratic friends suggested they could broker such a deal: "People would say, 'I would love to work on this with the governor.' I'd say I'm running for governor. I say what I mean and mean what I say."
By contrast, she said, Glendening proves consistently that he will always do the politically convenient thing -- noting the governor's appointment yesterday of former 8th District Rep. Michael D. Barnes, his re-election campaign chairman, as comptroller.
"It's the same thing over and over," she said.