Gov. Parris N. Glendening picked up the endorsement yesterday of a politically active group of Baltimore-area ministers, who praised his opposition to casino-style gambling and his positions on education and welfare issues.
While he has lost the support of Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, a former ally who has endorsed Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann in the Democratic primary, Glendening has won the backing of a group of influential ministers -- as well as nearly all of the city's state legislators.
"The governor in this first term has responded to most of our concerns and has delivered outstanding support for Baltimore and its citizens," said the Rev. Douglas I. Miles, pastor of Koinonia Baptist Church and president of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance.
The Alliance includes about 150 preachers. About half were present when the group voted late last month to endorse Glendening, Miles said.
The ministers' group will "be in the streets" to distribute a ballot with its endorsement of Glendening around the time of the Sept. 15 primary, Miles said.
A key issue for the ministers was Glendening's staunch opposition to the introduction of casino-style gambling in Maryland -- a stance that puts him at odds with Rehrmann and Schmoke.
"He has linked himself to our agenda of no casinos and slots, which means that the state can look at other creative ways of bringing revenues," said the Rev. William C. Calhoun Sr., pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Baltimore.
The alliance, while applauding Glendening's record, said it would push him to do more to generate economic development in depressed areas of Baltimore and to provide "equity funding" for education in Baltimore.
Glendening called the ministers' endorsement "very important" and said the same group's backing in his 1994 race for governor was crucial.
"I'm not sure I'd be here without your support individually and collectively," Glendening said at a morning news conference.
In a glimpse of the campaign rhetoric voters can expect in coming months, the governor told the ministers that his likely Republican opponent, Ellen R. Sauerbrey, would undo his successful efforts to strengthen Maryland's gun-control laws.
"She will not enforce that law and will try to overturn it, no matter what she's saying now," Glendening said.
Sauerbrey, a gun-control opponent, has said that the issue is settled in Maryland and that, as governor, she would not attempt to roll back the law.
During a day spent shoring up support in the city, Glendening also opened his Baltimore campaign office in Belvedere Square and looked at state-funded improvements at Morgan State University.