Glendening isn't taking sides in race

Governor stays out of heated fight to pick next mayor

Better relationship sought

O'Malley, Stokes focus on need for city-state cooperation

August 29, 1999|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF

Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening says he will not endorse any of the Democratic contenders in the Baltimore mayoral race before the Sept. 14 primary, but hopes for a fresh start with the city's new chief executive after a three-year feud with outgoing Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.

Although the governor won't take sides in the fierce Democratic primary, he appears most comfortable with two of the three top contenders, former Baltimore City Councilman Carl Stokes, whom Glendening and Schmoke jointly appointed to the Baltimore school board in 1997, and City Councilman Martin O'Malley.

Glendening has not forgotten that the third leading Democratic contender, Council President Lawrence A. Bell III, failed to endorse the governor in his hard-fought re-election bid last year after Glendening refused to meet what sources said was Bell's demand for $500,000 in campaign assistance -- a figure the Bell camp disputes.

Bell didn't help matters by canceling a recent meeting with Glendening at only 10 minutes notice.

A lot rides on the relationship between City Hall and the State House as the financially pressed city's reliance on state assistance continues to grow.

In recent years, the state has assumed the cost of the city's jail and its community college and has taken a larger role in overseeing and funding the school system -- in addition to one-time projects such as building the Camden Yards stadiums and the planned rebuilding of the Hippodrome Theater downtown.

Ready and willing

Glendening said the state must continue to pay extra attention to Baltimore's problems and said the next mayor has the opportunity to make improvements -- with state help.

"With the economy being this strong and our ability to do things in the [state] budget, now more than ever is the time we should be working together," Glendening said of the city's plight. "Clearly a number of the issues won't be resolved unless we work together."

Glendening and Schmoke have not worked well as a team since Schmoke broke with his former ally in a dispute about what was said during a private meeting in 1996 to discuss casino gambling.

"I want to have a good personal relationship where we can work on a basis of mutual trust," Glendening said of the next mayor. "Quite frankly, it's been a strained relationship."

Such a strain hurts the city in the long run, key lawmakers said.

"The more dependent the city gets on the state the more important the relationship between the mayor and the governor becomes," said Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, a Baltimore Democrat who heads the Senate committee that oversees state spending.

This year, the three leading Democratic candidates asked to meet with Glendening to discuss the city's future, and the governor scheduled sessions with each.

Where they stand

He met with Stokes and O'Malley, and the two also had sessions with Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.

The governor said that, aside from the major issues, he also pressed the two men on one of his pet peeves -- trash in the city.

"Can we do something together to clean up the city?" Glendening said he asked the two candidates. "It's filthy. You go down to North Avenue or whatever, it's a disgrace."

Glendening praised both candidates during a recent interview, saying Stokes seemed to have a better feel for education while O'Malley had a strong grasp of crime issues.

O'Malley said he recognizes the state's role in the city's future, but said he would seek a "partnership" and not simply ask for "handouts."

"We're going to get our house in order," O'Malley said. "That will be the best evidence that we're serious about that partnership."

Similarly, Stokes said his goal would be to convince state lawmakers that he was using state funds prudently.

"I have to convince the guys and gals in Annapolis that we're going to be accountable for the money they send us and that I'm going to have a solid plan to stanch the bleeding, so to speak," Stokes said.

Should Bell win, he would clearly have to work on his relationship with Glendening, which began fraying last year.

Hard feelings

Locked in a tough re-election fight, Glendening sought an endorsement from Bell, the only member of the 19-member Baltimore City Council not backing him.

The Glendening camp said that, to its astonishment, Bell said he would endorse the governor, but only if he were given at least $500,000 to rev up his grass-roots political organization last fall, according to sources familiar with the negotiations. And, with only a few weeks left before the election, Bell also wanted to take charge of Glendening's Baltimore campaign, the sources said.

While statewide candidates often send money to local elected officials to help mobilize supporters, the governor considered Bell's request excessive, sources said. Glendening also rejected any move to have Bell and his advisers run his city campaign.

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