Labor umbrella group gives Glendening its endorsement Governor, Rehrmann ask for BUILD's support

Campaign 1998

July 24, 1998|By Greg Garland and Thomas W. Waldron | Greg Garland and Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF

Gov. Parris N. Glendening's courting of organized labor paid off in a unanimous endorsement last night by the Maryland State and D.C. AFL-CIO, an umbrella group representing 350,000 union members statewide.

"These are the people who are going to turn out the vote and get others to turn out," Glendening said. "It's very, very important."

Earlier last night, Glendening and his main Democratic rival in the governor's race, Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann, each committed to parts of an ambitious social spending program pushed by a Baltimore grass-roots group planning a major get-out-the-vote effort for the election.

The Maryland AFL-CIO's backing of Glendening and Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend follows endorsements of the incumbents by a string of unions, including 12 locals of the United Auto Workers, the Maryland State Teachers Association and the Baltimore Building Trades Council.

"We feel very frankly that he was very responsive to the concerns of working employees, particularly public employees," Edward A. Mohler, president of the AFL-CIO umbrella group, said in an interview before the endorsement. "We're going to be behind him 100 percent and we're looking for another four years of progressive government."

Living up to a 1994 campaign promise, Glendening signed an executive order in 1996 to give limited collective bargaining rights to state workers, after the General Assembly had rejected a similar plan.

"Obviously, in signing the executive order, he had to go out on a limb," said Ernie R. Grecco, president of the AFL-CIO's Baltimore central labor council. "No other governor ever considered doing that. The business community was totally opposed to that."

Rehrmann had also sought the AFL-CIO endorsement, but a spokesman for her camp said she was expecting it to go to the incumbent. "It's difficult for a challenger to get endorsements from an organization that has been told all the things they want to hear from the governor," said George F. Harrison, the spokesman.

Jim Dornan, a spokesman for Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey, said she did not seek the AFL-CIO's endorsement. "Those endorsements are done by the big labor bosses and have nothing to do with the way the rank-and-file members vote," Dornan said.

In other statewide races, the AFL-CIO's umbrella group yesterday endorsed former Gov. William Donald Schaefer for comptroller. The group also backed the re-election of U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski and Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. All are Democrats.

Earlier, Glendening and Rehrmann vied for support from more than 400 members and supporters of Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development, a grass-roots, non-partisan coalition of churches and community groups.

Glendening received the warmer reaction from those gathered at Ames Memorial United Methodist Church in West Baltimore and embraced more of the group's agenda.

In particular, the governor said he supported, in concept, one of the coalition's key goals -- the creation of an endowment to fund social programs in the city.

BUILD has called for the state to invest 20 percent of its current budget surplus in a special fund, the interest from which could be spent on such things as rebuilding Baltimore schools, after-school programs and drug treatment.

In the past year, the state has collected at least $500 million more than it anticipated in tax revenue, thanks to Maryland's strong economy.

Glendening said, though, he could not support the 20 percent, but called the idea a worthy one. "I will commit to putting in some of the state surplus while times are good," he said.

Rehrmann did not endorse the endowment proposal, saying that XTC she would push instead for an increase in the cigarette tax, the proceeds from which would pay for programs supported by BUILD.

Rehrmann also told the group that she would push to allow slot machines at horse racing tracks as a way of raising money for education and other state needs.

BUILD leaders hope to have 500 people involved in a massive get-out-the-vote effort in Baltimore during this year's election -- going door-to-door, operating phone banks and driving voters to the polls on Election Day.

If each of those workers can get 20 voters to the polls, 10,000 people would be casting ballots armed with BUILD's assessment of the gubernatorial candidates.

Support from BUILD organizers could prove important to Glendening, who is campaigning in Baltimore this year without the political help of Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, a Rehrmann backer.

Pub Date: 7/24/98

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