Governor, county executive candidate hit Columbia mall for campaign lunch Lesser-known Robey gets boost from Glendening

Campaign 1998

July 17, 1998|By Gady A. Epstein | Gady A. Epstein,SUN STAFF

There the governor was at The Mall in Columbia yesterday, hamming it up with the lunch crowd at the food court, holding up babies, kneeling to address seated children and grandmothers eye to eye. People instantly recognized Parris N. Glendening; his roaming staffers helped ensure that.

And there, standing beside Glendening, was Democratic county executive candidate James N. Robey. He wasn't being as chummy with the voters -- or asking the children how they liked their pizza -- as the governor. In fact, many people didn't know who Robey was until Glendening introduced him.

"You know Jim Robey here? He's running for county executive," Glendening said.

Robey, it seems, is one politician for whom an introduction is necessary, though as diner Jane Bailey of Ellicott City noted, it helped that Robey had his name on his shirt.

For a first-time candidate, Robey has good name recognition from his seven years as county police chief. He is steadily raising money, meeting with community groups, making the rounds at village centers and knocking on doors as he looks ahead to a November race against the winner of the Republican primary in mid-September.

"I don't have to spend big bucks for the primary, but I still have to remain as visible as I can," Robey said yesterday.

But while he may be visible with community leaders and well-known as the former police chief, Robey isn't as well-known as a candidate. He hasn't generated much publicity for his campaign, and that likely won't change until after Republican County Council members Charles C. Feaga and Dennis R. Schrader face off in the Sept. 15 primary.

Robey doesn't plan to advertise before the primary, and he hasn't courted press attention for the few early major events of his campaign: his first big fund-raiser last month, the lunchtime meet-and-greet with Glendening yesterday and Glendening's planned appearance at his fund-raiser tonight.

Some Democrats, already upset that Robey didn't capitalize on the county's fight this spring over the education budget, have privately carped that the candidate should do more.

"Some of them said, 'You ought to challenge that issue, raise that issue,' " he said.

Robey, who likes to cast himself as more public servant than politician, said it's just not his style to "stand yelling on a mountaintop" and attract publicity.

But he promises to be a very public candidate after the primary. He's reserved more than 1,200 television spots on five cable channels from mid-September until the election -- and the governor will help.

"It was nice to see he was recognized by a good many people, and a few recognized me [yesterday]," Robey said. "He was very kind in introducing me to people."

Pub Date: 7/17/98

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