Schaefer is 'energized' by campaign Comptroller candidate meets with allies, attends golf event

'Received with open arms'

Several opponents drop out of race, but others undeterred

July 11, 1998|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,SUN STAFF

Full of his old enthusiasm, former Gov. William Donald Schaefer breakfasted with political friends, shook hands with admirers and caddied at a golf tournament in Western Maryland yesterday, even as two more former colleagues quit the race for state comptroller.

Schaefer lost no time in capitalizing on his opportunity after Gov. Parris N. Glendening suddenly embraced his campaign to become comptroller when former Rep. Michael D. Barnes withdrew as the governor's hand-picked choice for the job.

Hours after the dramatic turnabout Thursday afternoon, Schaefer traveled to Frostburg, where he was auctioned off for $1,000 as a caddy for a charity golf tournament at the Maplehurst Country Club. Schaefer was up early yesterday for a breakfast with longtime supporters organized by House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., who said Schaefer was clearly reinvigorated by his quest to return to public office.

"He was received with open arms," Taylor said. "Campaigning can wear you out, but it can also energize you. He had a reunion with a lot of his political friends up here, and he was pretty upbeat about it."

Two of Schaefer's longtime allies, former Baltimore City Council President Mary Pat Clarke and onetime Councilman Joseph J. DiBlasi, announced yesterday that they were leaving the race. Former state legislator Julian L. Lapides has decided that he also will withdraw in deference to the former governor and Baltimore mayor.

"Now that it looks absolutely certain that William Donald Schaefer is in and moving ahead very well, I'm delighted, and I'm supporting him," Clarke said yesterday. "He's the kind of independent people's person that the office needs."

Their departures strengthened Schaefer's emergence as the consensus Democratic candidate for the post left vacant by the death of Louis L. Goldstein on July 3. Schaefer will be opposed by Baltimore Comptroller Joan M. Pratt, who also began campaigning yesterday, and a number of lesser-known Democrats in this fall's primary.

'Not going to be slam-dunk'

Pratt, who surprised many in the Baltimore political establishment by capturing the city comptroller's job in 1995, said she plans to run an equally spirited, grass-roots campaign. Her campaign consultant, Julius Henson, said Pratt will visit large churches and shopping centers across Maryland this weekend. She will not withdraw, he said, despite significant pressure from supporters of Glendening and Schaefer.

"This thing is not going to be a slam-dunk" for Schaefer, Henson said. "He is a name everyone knows, but it does not follow that everyone in the state will vote for him, and we're offering her as an independent candidate who represents the next generation of leadership."

Republican and Democratic rivals of the governor seized on the tumultuous events of the last week to question Glendening's political competence.

Republican gubernatorial front-runner Ellen R. Sauerbrey called Glendening "politically inept" in the way he handled the appointment of Barnes, Glendening's re-election campaign manager, and the subsequent move to cut his losses by backing Schaefer. Michael Steele, who will run for comptroller on Sauerbrey's ticket, said, "It leads me to question who's going to be the governor over the next four years if both [Glendening and Schaefer] get elected."

A spokesman for Eileen M. Rehrmann, Glendening's chief Democratic rival, said the quick abandonment of Barnes for Schaefer shows that the governor can't be trusted.

'Fast turnaround'

"Here's a case where his word lasted only three days; that's a pretty fast turnaround," said George Harrison.

But an upbeat Glendening shrugged off the criticism, saying he had little time to make a decision, and looked forward to campaigning beside Schaefer. He and Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend will attend Schaefer's kickoff rally, scheduled for Monday morning at the Best Western Hotel and Conference Center on O'Donnell Street, near Route 95, east of downtown Baltimore. Organizers are expecting a large turnout.

Goldstein's longtime deputy, Robert "Bobby" Swann, will be sworn in as interim comptroller Tuesday.

Almost all of the mostly novice Republican hopefuls say they plan to stay in the race. A handful of little-known Democrats also insisted yesterday that they're willing to take on the 76-year-old Schaefer, despite his near-universal name recognition.

"Schaefer doesn't scare me," said Lawrence E. Keval, a private detective from Bowie who is among the Democratic candidates. "These career politicians like Schaefer come out of retirement, and they don't give newcomers a chance. But I'm going to give it a shot anyway."

Pub Date: 7/11/98

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