Glendening snub sparks political fire for Schaefer

July 09, 1998|By MICHAEL OLESKER

WILLIAM Donald Schaefer, former mayor of Baltimore, former governor of Maryland, refusing to think of himself in the permanent past tense, picked up the telephone four days ago and humbly declared, "I have an interest in running."

The man on the other end of the telephone line said nothing. Schaefer meant running for state comptroller. The man on the other end of the line was Gov. Parris N. Glendening. The job of comptroller was open in the aftermath of Louis L. Goldstein's death. Glendening continued to say nothing.

"Do you have interest in somebody else?" Schaefer said into the silence.

"Duncan," said Glendening, meaning Douglas M. Duncan, the Montgomery County executive who did not want the job. "But I have a list of people."

"Could I be on that list?" asked Schaefer.

"I need somebody from Montgomery County," said Glendening. He didn't mention that he was about to call state Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, who didn't want the job. Hoffman's from Baltimore. He didn't mention that he would call Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, who didn't want the job. Cardin's from Baltimore.

The name Michael D. Barnes did not enter the conversation even vaguely, nor did Schaefer ever imagine that it might. Why would it? Over the weekend, as the mourning commenced for the beloved Goldstein, Glendening pledged not to politicize the selection of comptroller. Barnes has been running Glendening's re-election campaign. Who could imagine a more political appointment - or a better lapdog on the Board of Public Works, the three-member panel that includes the governor and the (formerly independent) comptroller, which spends the state's money.

"If the people on your list don't work out," said Schaefer to Glendening, "I'm interested."

"Fine," said Glendening.

And then the two men hung up the phone - and Schaefer later heard from others that Glendening had picked Barnes.

He fumed. Torn between mourning for Goldstein, and hungry for a more active public life, and knowing the clock was ticking toward filing deadline, Schaefer decided to run. He's been retired nearly four years, and he's bored to death. Having a law office, teaching a few college courses, shmoozing with old friends doesn't add up to enough for a man consumed by his work for the previous four decades. Schaefer needs to feel he's contributing, needs to feel he matters.

He likes Eileen M. Rehrmann, but loathes her campaign manager, Larry S. Gibson, and so decided against backing her. He's felt disdain for Glendening for the last four years, felt disrespected and ignored by the governor - but nevertheless publicly backed Glendening's re-election bid a few weeks ago. And then, after Goldstein's death, wondered if that support might count for something. He learned that it did not.

"It would have been nice for [Glendening] to offer me the job," Schaefer was saying the other evening, after recounting their phone conversation. "I would have taken it. He never mentioned [Barnes'] name. I thought he would call me back."

It feels like part of a pattern. This governor pledges not to make the comptroller's job political, and then appoints his campaign manager to the job. This governor gets into money problems - sweetheart pension deals, health care money that's clearly conflicted, racetrack money that's clearly illegal - and expects us to believe he never knew. This governor tells the mayor of Baltimore, Kurt L. Schmoke, that he'll back slot machines to help finance the public schools - and then denies the pledge, and instead assumes an anti-gambling posture that belies all the years when Glendening was running Prince George's County, home of a vast network of legalized charity casino gambling.

Yesterday, the fallout from Glendening's snub was everywhere. Several sources said Michael Barnes was considering dropping out of the comptroller's race. Schaefer backers were warning that if Glendening tried belatedly to offer the spot to Schaefer, the former governor would sneer at it.

There was even talk of Rehrmann adding Schaefer to her campaign ticket. Even though Schaefer endorsed Glendening, Rehrmann's been invited to a rally for Schaefer next week. At which point, Schaefer might be persuaded to change his endorsement.

"I like Eileen a lot," Schaefer said Tuesday night. "She's a wonderful lady. I like her, but my only problem with her is Larry Gibson running her campaign. When I [endorsed] Glendening, I was thinking, 'Well, I gotta be for somebody.'"

He's having second thoughts for a couple of reasons: not only the Glendening snub, but the lack of a Baltimore voice at the top of state government.

"I'm in this to stay," Schaefer said. He was talking from home. "I got 44 messages on my phone. They're all saying, 'We're behind you.' Some of them are offering money. It's very encouraging."

He sounded enthusiastic. It's an emotion lacking from his life for the last four years, which Parris Glendening has reignited.

Pub Date: 7/09/98

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