Changing the dynamics in 2 cities

The Political Game

Predictions: Comptroller William Donald Schaefer is unlikely to run for Baltimore mayor and should be able to work in public with the governor in Annapolis.

February 02, 1999|By C. Fraser Smith | C. Fraser Smith,SUN STAFF

STATE COMPTROLLER William Donald Schaefer now asserts himself on two political stages -- one in Baltimore and the other in Annapolis.

Recent Schaefer comments raise two questions:

1) Will he run for mayor of Baltimore in this year's municipal election?

2) Will he squabble constantly with Gov. Parris N. Glendening on the state Board of Public Works?

Taking these questions in order, it says here that Schaefer will not run for a fifth term as mayor of Baltimore though he might like to.

If he did, he would risk being labeled as someone who thinks public office -- whatever office -- is his for the asking. He would look as if he had been interested only in personal aggrandizement. That conclusion could be deadly in a campaign. And Schaefer's political judgment in such matters has always been keen.

What he wants, it is said, is for Kweisi Mfume, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, to run. So, Schaefer offers himself coyly as a means of focusing Baltimore's African-American political establishment on the necessity of settling on a single, strong candidate.

To put the matter directly: A white candidate, even one of Schaefer's eminence, could win in majority black Baltimore only if the black vote is splintered. In the past, Schaefer enjoyed support across the racial spectrum, but a new generation is at hand.

Sources close to the former mayor and former governor say he will not run. But the possibility that he might will remain a factor in the calculations.

Oddly enough, though their feud is said to be never-ending, Schaefer and Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke may be on the same wavelength here. Schmoke invokes the specter of Schaefer as a way of urging a consensus black contender -- if not Mfume, someone else.

And, now, for Question 2: Will Schaefer torment and bedevil Glendening until the governor wishes he'd lost in November to Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey?

Yes and no. Or is it no and yes.

Schaefer has had many celebrated feuds. But when he was president of the Baltimore City Council in the 1960s, he and Mayor Thomas J. D'Alesandro III fought and argued constantly, but seldom in public. Schaefer was proud of those fights and prouder of his decision to keep them private. He would not withhold his viewpoint in private, but when the Board of Estimates convened, he was loyal and largely silent.

The dynamic is somewhat different now. Schaefer and those who supported him for comptroller feel no loyalty to Glendening, who wanted the job to go to someone else. Nevertheless, Schaefer will begin his tenure with a period of respect -- for the office at least. Many of his allies hope he will be a constant, vocal and public critic of the governor.

He could easily become one. But he has economic development objectives for the state and will be unlikely to attain them if the Board of Public Works is in constant turmoil. It could happen, of course, but not for its own sake.

That prediction is based on various considerations.

Schaefer and Glendening are both big-government activists. They are more likely to see eye to eye on policy than, say, Schaefer and Richard N. Dixon, the state treasurer and third member of the board who tends to be more conservative.

Other elements in this political alchemy are House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., who has his own economic development ideas, and Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who has been handed the economic development portfolio by Glendening. Schaefer and Townsend have been meeting frequently and are at the opposite end of the personal-relations scale from Schaefer and Glendening.

A Schaefer-Townsend-Taylor troika could be a formidable one, strong enough to make Glendening a partner, in which case squabbling would be unnecessary.

Jeanne Mandel is a profile in loyalty and courage

Jeanne Mandel, stricken with Lou Gehrig's disease, was among the hundreds of Schaefer well-wishers Jan. 25 when the comptroller took the oath of office. The wife of former Gov. Marvin Mandel came in a wheelchair to sit in the House chamber for yet another moment of triumph for her husband's close political ally.

When Mandel was convicted on political corruption charges -- later overturned -- Schaefer stayed unwaveringly loyal. Jeanne Mandel remembered.

Pub Date: 2/02/99

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