Schaefer bid for office gathering momentum One candidate quits run for comptroller in deference to him

'I'm very energized'

But Barnes, Pratt will challenge former governor

Campaign 1998

July 09, 1998|By C. Fraser Smith | C. Fraser Smith,SUN STAFF Sun staff writers JoAnna Daemmrich, Craig Timberg and William F. Zorzi Jr. contributed to this article.

Former Gov. William Donald Schaefer's quest for a return to public life gathered momentum yesterday as political allies urged him on, business friends planned a Monday morning fund-raiser and at least one former colleague decided to leave the race for state comptroller in deference to him.

"I told him that if he's in the race to stay, I'm out," said former state Sen. Julian L. Lapides. "He cares passionately about the city and the state. And he cares about the little guy. It's the perfect job for him."

Another longtime political associate, former Baltimore City Council President Mary Pat Clarke, indicated that she, too, may leave the race if Schaefer's entry is guaranteed.

But the storied former Baltimore mayor apparently will be opposed by Baltimore Comptroller Joan M. Pratt and others, including former U.S. Rep. Michael D. Barnes, a Democrat from Montgomery County. Barnes was named Monday by Gov. Parris N. Glendening to complete the unexpired term of Louis L. Goldstein, who died Friday.

Yesterday, Barnes denied rumors circulating in the political community that he would withdraw from the race, given Schaefer's candidacy.

"I am on track to be both interim comptroller and a candidate for election," he said from his Washington office at the law firm of Hogan and Hartson. He said he was leaving for Annapolis at that moment to begin assuming his new duties.

Schaefer and other candidates who filed for this fall's election can withdraw by July 16. But last night, Schaefer, who entered the race 90 minutes before Monday's filing deadline, left no doubt of his intention to stay in the race for comptroller of Maryland.

"I've definitely made up my mind," he said at a fund-raiser for House of Delegates candidate Mary-Dulany James at the Center Club. "I'm very energized. Life was OK, but this has got me pepped up."

Spotting state Treasurer Richard N. Dixon in the crowd, Schaefer said he hoped to be sitting across from him when the state Board of Public Works convenes after the election in November.

"Do it now!" said former Anne Arundel County Del. W. Ray Huff, invoking Schaefer's famed manifesto of governance.

"You can bet on it," Schaefer replied.

Schaefer's nascent candidacy drew support immediately from a number of businessmen, including John Paterakis, who were meeting to begin organizing the campaign. "No one can ever replace Louie Goldstein," said an invitation widely faxed yesterday, "however we can assure that the comptroller's office will retain the high standard of independence "

Paterakis is a supporter of Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann, who is running against Glendening in the Democratic primary. Schaefer's candidacy -- against Glendening's appointee -- could help her.

But a number of political observers said yesterday that Glendening's decision to bypass Schaefer was very likely based on Schaefer's assertive independence -- and the likelihood that the two men would inevitably be competitive if they served at the same time.

"If Schaefer is elected," said a lobbyist with close connections in the political world, "you will have two governors in Annapolis. This could be a major problem for Glendening."

Meanwhile, the GOP's gubernatorial front-runner, Ellen R. Sauerbrey, said she had recruited and will endorse Prince George's County lawyer Michael Steele to run for comptroller on her ticket. "He's a very talented young man with a great future in politics," she said.

Many were saying yesterday that Schaefer would be as difficult as anyone in either party to beat in a relatively short campaign when most of the other contenders, including Barnes, cannot match his name near-universal name recognition.

If Schaefer really wants the job, said Del. Thomas E. Dewberry, a Democrat from Baltimore County, he'll be a "slam dunk" winner in his district.

At Goldstein's funeral Tuesday, Dewberry and others said they watched dozens of ordinary citizens stop to urge Schaefer to stay in the race.

"I'm with you, governor," they said, according to Dewberry. "I'll support you. You go for it."

Dewberry said he had no doubt Schaefer would do well in Dewberry's Baltimore County district in and around Catonsville. "Over Mike Barnes? People don't know who Mike Barnes is," he said. "Schaefer will win hands down. Easily. I think he'll win the state."

By various accounts, Barnes had not expected to face so formidable a figure as Schaefer. He had been assured by Glendening associates that the way would be relatively clear for him.

But Barnes said yesterday he is prepared. He decided to leave his law practice, he said, because politics "is in my blood."

"This is a unique opportunity take on a challenging position," Barnes said. "I didn't expect it, seek it, or ask for it, but when it was presented to me, I made the judgment I'd take a run at it."

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