Glendening, Schmoke take small steps to repair rift Governor and mayor appear together for first time in months

September 02, 1998|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF

Appearing together publicly for the first time in months, Gov. Parris N. Glendening and Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke took tentative steps yesterday toward repairing their fractured political relationship.

At a downtown event announcing a $21 million federal housing grant for Baltimore, the two men shook hands, exchanged polite if not enthusiastic compliments, and even achieved an awkward-looking hug.

Once close political allies, the mayor and the governor split in April when Schmoke declared Glendening untrustworthy and endorsed his Democratic rival, Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann. Out of money and trailing in the polls, Rehrmann abandoned her effort three weeks ago, leaving allies such as Schmoke in a political no man's land.

But top Democrats in Maryland and Washington have begun pressuring the mayor and the governor to bury their differences and concentrate on the party's No. 1 goal, re-electing Glendening in November.

Yesterday, before the grant announcement, Glendening and Schmoke met privately with three ranking Democrats -- Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings and U.S. Housing Secretary Andrew M. Cuomo. Schmoke and the governor agreed on the need for party unity in the fall, one source said, though the meeting ended with no commitment by the mayor to help Glendening's campaign.

Later, both men suggested that a rapprochement would materialize.

"He's a fine man," Glendening said cooly when asked about the effort to repair the rift with Schmoke.

"Everything happens in the right time and place," the governor added.

Schmoke said in an interview that he and Glendening were "on the right path."

"We have the same goal -- a Democratic victory in November," Schmoke said. "Some of the things that seem like big deals become little deals. We have to give it some time."

For the two men, considerable obstacles remain on the path to reconciliation.

Schmoke believes that Glendening did not come through on several 1994 campaign pledges to help the city and asserts that the governor lied about a private meeting the two had to discuss slot machines in 1996.

Glendening bristles at Schmoke's characterizations of his integrity and has adopted an attitude that he owes his loyalty to the long list of Democrats who endorsed him while Schmoke was campaigning for Rehrmann.

It appears the governor wants Schmoke's endorsement, but unconditionally.

"Is the governor going to bend over backwards to buy Kurt Schmoke's support?" said one Glendening loyalist. "No."

The day Rehrmann dropped out of the race, Glendening agreed to Schmoke's request for a meeting to discuss the election, but nothing transpired.

According to sources, Schmoke was annoyed by a suggestion from the Glendening camp that the mayor travel to the governor's campaign headquarters in College Park. Aides to Schmoke proposed City Hall, which the Glendening side rejected.

A compromise suggestion to have a brief "break the ice" meeting before yesterday's press conference came about only after Townsend and Cuomo -- the lieutenant governor's brother-in-law -- spent the weekend arranging for the two men to get together.

The discussion in a ground-floor room in the U.S. Customs House in downtown Baltimore was politically "realistic," said one person familiar with the meeting, as Schmoke told the group he shared their goal of re-electing Glendening.

Glendening and Schmoke and the other officials launched the news conference to announce the federal grant, but only after Cuomo brought the two men together to shake hands on stage.

Cuomo arranged for Schmoke to introduce Glendening -- which prompted the mayor to salute the governor's commitment to rebuilding public housing in Maryland. Glendening remarked on Schmoke's "leadership" on the issue.

Amid the self-congratulation, the governor and the mayor managed a businesslike hug.

Glendening and Schmoke are expected to meet again soon -- perhaps in a group of three with Townsend continuing her role as mediator, sources said.

Pub Date: 9/02/98

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