Governor using home advantage Incumbency: A sitting governor has a major advantage over the challenger in everything from dispensing state funds to staging photo opportunities.

October 30, 1998|By C. Fraser Smith and Michael Dresser | C. Fraser Smith and Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

In his struggle to win a second term, Parris N. Glendening has had a major advantage: the vast powers of incumbency.

He's been able to dispense millions from a state treasury flush with cash, attract contributions from those doing business with the state, deputize staff members to speak for him and grab the limelight at will -- whether it's giving an award to a 100-year-old volunteer, introducing Coretta Scott King to a crowd of professional women or hanging his name on tourism ads.

As with every Maryland governor before him, the beauty of incumbency is clear: Almost everything he does is both governmental and political.

During this year's gubernatorial campaign that ends with

Tuesday's election, Glendening has granted or promised prodigious sums for state projects -- ranging from a $15 billion Washington-area subway line to a $108,000-hiking and biking trail in Westminster.

Yesterday he announced that the state would come through with as much as $55 million for continuation of White Marsh Boulevard into an area of northeast Baltimore County that needs the road to build plants, create jobs and produce tax revenue.

"A governor in Maryland has so much at his fingertips," said former governor Marvin Mandel. "We have the strongest strong-executive form of government in the country and he's using it. He's pouring money everywhere."

By contrast, his Republican challenger, Ellen R. Sauerbrey, can only promise.

"We think Parris has gone far over the line in using state resources," said Carol L. Hirschburg, a Sauerbrey spokeswoman. "He's been shameless."

Peter S. Hamm, the governor's campaign manager, retorted: "It certainly is way beyond conventional wisdom that incumbency is an advantage in any race for any office. In this race, I would argue, this governor will win not because of any power of incumbency but because of his position on the issues as contrasted to those of his opponent."

Giving guaranteed

For an incumbent Maryland governor, sitting in the State House is a virtual guarantee that some large givers will contribute. Industry political action committees, utility companies and highway contractors are among the givers.

Take the state's so-called Sunny Day Fund, a program created under Gov. William Donald Schaefer to help lure new businesses to or retain companies in Maryland, that was expanded under Glendening. The controversial program has helped create or save thousands of Maryland jobs, but critics have called it a political slush fund.

Almost 20 of the 60 companies that have received state loans and grants through the fund have given more than $100,000 combined to Glendening's re-election effort -- either directly or through their corporate officers. Among the recipients who have contributed were Staples Inc., Rite Aid Corp., Northrop Grumman Corp., MedImmune Inc., FILA USA and T. Rowe Price Associates.

But the record of Sunny Day fund recipients in giving is not cut-and-dried. Many have given nothing. Several have given to Sauerbrey, who has virtually matched the governor in overall fund raising.

Beyond Sunny Day recipients, Glendening's campaign finance report is replete with givers who have reasons to be grateful.

Few actions by Glendening have been as noncontroversial as helping to broker a deal that induced Bethlehem Steel to build a $300 million cold-rolling mill complex at its Sparrows Point plant. That move, which may have averted the closure of the plant and the loss of thousands of jobs, won him praise from Bethlehem and the United Steelworkers of America.

But praise wasn't all. The union has given at least $8,250 to the governor's campaign.

Less-visible givers

Other rewards flow from less-visible actions.

Shortly after Glendening became governor in 1995, his administration cleared the way for Panda Brandywine Corp., a Dallas energy company, to build a water pipeline through a wildlife reserve in Charles County. The company, which along with its affiliates gave Glendening $8,550 for his 1994 race, ponied up $4,000 more in January.

Gift of revenge

Inevitably, some gubernatorial decisions create enemies as well. And for some of the aggrieved, giving well is the best revenge.

Joseph A. De Francis, owner of the Laurel and Pimlico racetracks, is pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into the national Republican Party's federal fund to elect GOP governors.

De Francis, whose eagerness to contribute to Glendening led him to break Maryland election law in 1994, has been estranged from the governor since Glendening adopted his "no casinos, no slots, no exceptions" policy in 1996.

L The governor's control over the state's largess is sweeping.

When the Kelly-Springfield Tire Co. says it will leave Cumberland or when General Motors Corp. indicates it might abandon Baltimore, Glendening can convene task forces and promise rescue packages: $50,000 for the Kelly task force and $67.2 million for GM.

Pledging support

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