When a big hat gets tossed into the ring Comptroller's race: Schaefer scrambles political strategies by filing to succeed Goldstein.

July 08, 1998

MARYLAND'S best-known living politician, William Donald Schaefer, wants to succeed another state institution, the recently departed Louis L. Goldstein, as state comptroller. If he carries out that threat -- beyond the July 16 withdrawal deadline -- this year's elections could be turned topsy-turvy.

Defeating Mr. Schaefer would take a monumental effort on the part of newly named Comptroller Michael Darr Barnes, the hand-picked choice of Gov. Parris N. Glendening. Mr. Schaefer has a legion of dedicated followers, money in the bank left over from past campaigns and instant name recognition from his eight years as governor and 15 years as mayor of Baltimore.

Upsetting Mr. Schaefer could prove even more difficult for the other 17 people in the crowded race because he is the only one with proven statewide appeal. He is the proverbial 800-pound gorilla. Mr. Schaefer's quick reappearance on the political scene could also affect the gubernatorial elections, both in September and November. Mr. Glendening has tied his ticket to Mr. Barnes, a former congressman from Montgomery County. What if Eileen M. Rehrmann ties her ticket to Mr. Schaefer? That could change the dynamics of the race.

A Schaefer candidacy could also alter the outlook for the general election because his appearance on the Democratic ballot would greatly strengthen that party's nominee for governor.

It may not happen, though. Yes, Mr. Schaefer filed Monday night for comptroller. But he made it clear he wanted to take time to mull over his true intentions.

He didn't sound anxious, at age 76, to launch an exhausting campaign.

The ex-governor seemed to relish the attention his filing has generated. He's been looking for a way to end his retirement and return to public service. Is this the answer? Or is he angling for some choice assignment from Mr. Glendening as the price of withdrawing from the comptroller's race?

We should find out a week from today.

Pub Date: 7/08/98

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