Governor backing off from Clinton Glendening to skip joint appearance, cancel fund-raiser

September 05, 1998|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Michael Dresser contributed to this article.

Worried about political fallout from White House scandal, Gov. Parris N. Glendening is distancing himself from President Clinton -- bowing out of a presidential visit in Silver Spring on Tuesday and pulling the plug on Clinton's planned fund-raising trip here next month, according to sources familiar with the governor's plans.

Locked in an apparently tight race for re-election, Glendening is concerned that Clinton's troubles in the Monica Lewinsky affair may turn off voters here, sources said.

The cool reaction from an incumbent Democrat in a heavily Democratic state is another blow to Clinton and comes amid growing criticism of the president from within his party.

On Thursday, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat who shares Clinton's centrist views, took to the Senate floor to assert that the president had "compromised his moral authority" with his "immoral" behavior.

His views were quickly echoed by Democratic senators Bob Kerrey of Nebraska and Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York.

Glendening has decided not to attend a Tuesday event with Clinton highlighting "School Modernization Day" at a Silver Spring elementary school.

Under other circumstances,Glendening would likely have rushed to the ceremony because it focuses on school construction -- a priority issue for the governor.

Rep. Albert R. Wynn of the 4th District even announced in a news release Thursday that Glendening would attend.

After deliberating yesterday, the Glendening campaign said last night that the governor had "some scheduling conflicts" that made it impossible for him to join the president.

Glendening instead plans to honor a long-standing commitment Tuesday to speak at a kick-off luncheon in Randallstown for the Baltimore County African-American festival, said campaign spokesman Peter S. Hamm.

In addition, Glendening has a meeting with his legal advisers Tuesday afternoon, Hamm said.

Glendening was not available for comment last night.

Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend will stand in for the governor in Silver Spring, Hamm said.

Similarly, the Glendening camp has canceled plans to have Clinton come to Maryland next month to raise money for the governor's re-election effort, according to sources. The governor's advisers have asked the White House to send Vice President Al Gore to the fund-raiser Oct. 2 as a substitute, the sources said.

Hamm said only that discussions with the White House were continuing: "We still have no details about a fund-raising event by the president or vice president."

Planning for the fund-raiser had begun in earnest, and influential Democrats had begun to try to sell tickets to the event -- with mixed success, sources said.

Since word of the fund-raiser became public last month, Glendening has been privately criticized by some state Democrats, who said he was handing the Republicans a potent weapon to use against him this fall.

Many in the party were startled; Glendening's plan to raise money with the president became known only a few days after Clinton's admission of an inappropriate relationship with Lewinsky, the former White House intern.

"I think the whole idea was just ludicrous," said one longtime Democratic fund-raiser who asked not to be identified. "Why would Parris want to tie himself so closely to the guy?"

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said he was not aware of any plans to cancel the Clinton fund-raising visit but urged against a reversal. "You don't dis-invite a president," said Miller, a Prince George's Democrat. "I think he needs our prayers, our support, and I don't think that any of us should walk away from him at this time."

A poll done for The Sun and other news organizations before the president's admission in the Lewinsky matter found that 55 percent of Maryland voters surveyed approved of the job Clinton was doing as president -- compared with 42 percent approval of Glendening's performance.

Miller noted, however, that more recent polling has shown that the Clinton sex scandal is likely to hold down Democratic voter turnout in the fall election.

The effect on voter turnout may be slight, he said, "but in a close election, it makes a difference."

Pub Date: 9/05/98

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