What about Larry Gibson now? Questions: Many see the withdrawal of his candidate for governor as a setback for the political strategist. He disagrees.

The Political Game

August 18, 1998|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,SUN STAFF

WHEN HARFORD County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann flamed out of the governor's race last week, her two highest-profile supporters, Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and Prince George's County Executive Wayne K. Curry, suffered a huge political blow.

Schmoke and Curry will survive. Gov. Parris N. Glendening needs them in November and they will need him in the future.

But what about Larry S. Gibson, Rehrmann's campaign manager, the Baltimore political strategist who orchestrated it all?

The Rehrmann exit was seen universally as a setback for Gibson. Well, almost universally.

Did he view the Rehrmann effort as a loss? "Not in the least bit, personally," said Gibson, an adviser to Schmoke and Curry.

"I learned a lot, developed a lot of statewide contacts, a lot of statewide relationships," he said. "I learned a lot more about the state demographically and made a lot more friends. It's been a rewarding, educational experience -- and that makes me better."

Such remarks fueled speculation that he had been using the Rehrmann campaign merely as a dry run for some future statewide race -- perhaps Schmoke for U.S. Senate in 2000 or Curry for governor in 2002.

For some, Rehrmann's failed candidacy was a long-overdue explosion of the myth of Gibson's power as a political boss and rainmaker, which they believe was created in large part by the media.

"I think the voters and the politicals now for the first time will question Kurt Schmoke's judgment, along with Larry Gibson's," said Julius Henson, another Baltimore political consultant who has been chafing to go head-to-head with the mayor's team.

Schmoke and Gibson found themselves on opposite sides from folks who are usually their allies, the city senators and City Council members who backed Glendening early for the Democratic primary. Henson and others who would love to see the Schmoke-Gibson organization upset had been watching intently to see how the primary race played out in the city.

For Henson, who will likely push his mayoral candidate next year to challenge Schmoke, the most disappointing part of Gibson's stumble was that the strength of Schmoke, Gibson & Co. will not be tested this year.

"We'll never get the chance to see how much juice they have," said Henson, who counts as his most promising candidate Joan M. Pratt, the city comptroller and would-be state comptroller.

"A lot of people believe they have no machine, that they depended on all of the senators and council people working on their behalf. That, and the money, and that was it," he said. "This time, we were going to see how much Larry Gibson and Kurt Schmoke could do on their own."

Two national publications check out race for governor

The national media have turned their attention to the little matter of the Maryland gubernatorial race this year, which is more than most of the state's voters have done.

In its Aug. 17 edition, the conservative National Review contains a short feature on one of its darlings, Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey, the woman who, according to the magazine, would be "Maryland's Thatcher."

Sauerbrey is described as perhaps "the most impressive conservative running for governor anywhere in America this year," mainly because she embodies Ronald Reagan's "political values" better than other GOP candidates for governor in the nation.

"If she had won in 1994, she'd be a shoo-in for re-election right now and on everybody's short list for vice president in 2000," writer John J. Miller asserts.

A passing mention is made of a joke among Washington conservatives about choosing between the "People's Republic of Maryland" and "The Free State of Virginia" for a suburban home.

In the race, Miller picks Sauerbrey as "an underdog" who could "squeak through."

The National Journal's online Cloakroom has officially pronounced Gov. Parris N. Glendening alive, naming him one of its "Overachievers of '98" for rising from the political dead.

Last week, Charles Todd reported that Glendening's political obituary was being written six months ago as "one of the most vulnerable governors," but now he is considered "a favorite for re-election."

News of his resurrection might be premature, given the most recent polls. But now that Glendening's most serious primary opposition has vanished, he certainly is in better shape to focus exclusively on Sauerbrey, the likely GOP nominee.

Pub Date: 8/18/98

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