After five years, Mr. Governor is Mr. Popularity

The Political Game

Glendening: His job approval ratings have risen 22 points, to 56 percent, since 1996, says a recent poll.

March 07, 2000|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

PARRIS N. Glendening, once ranked among the least popular governors in the 50 states, is enjoying his strongest approval ratings in more than five years in office.

The charismatically challenged Glendening posted a 56 percent approval rating in the latest poll by Bethesda-based Potomac Survey Research. Thirty percent said they disapproved of his handling of his job.

That might not compare with the stratospheric ratings enjoyed by some politicians, but for Glendening it's an extraordinary turnaround.

Steve Raabe, executive vice president of Potomac, said Glendening's numbers in the Feb. 25-27 survey were the best the governor has received in the company's polls.

Raabe noted that in February 1996, Glendening's approval rating stood at 34 percent, with 43 percent disapproving. Another company's poll showed his approval as low as 24 percent in the summer of that year.

Glendening has built his popularity by winning 3 1/2-to-1 backing from his fellow Democrats, Raabe said, while independents approve of him by a 2-to-1 margin.

"He's had some successful legislative sessions lately," said Raabe. "He also benefits, as many governors do, from having a billion-dollar surplus."

Friends, politicos aplenty turn out for Schaefer fete

William Donald Schaefer showed he can still pack a room as several hundred of his closest friends gathered in Annapolis last week to celebrate his first year as Maryland's chief tax collector.

Three potential gubernatorial contenders, five county executives, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, the presiding officers of the General Assembly and assorted legislators and lobbyists joined the crowd of old Schaefer hands who gathered at Phillips restaurant to pay homage to a very merry comptroller.

The 78-year-old Schaefer, who was slowed this year by leg surgery, moved through the crowd briskly. "I had trouble getting the rest of me together, but the leg's good," Schaefer exulted.

The no-charge party, paid for from leftover campaign funds, was scheduled for January but ran into a do-it-now snowstorm.

At times the room resembled a 1989 edition of Who's Who in Maryland as former Cabinet secretaries and staffers, long out of the limelight, re-emerged to honor the former governor. "You're going to see all the dinosaurs tonight," quipped lobbyist Dennis McCoy, a friend of Schaefer's since the late 1950s.

Glendening, the frequent target of Schaefer's barbs at Board of Public Works meetings, was out of town, but Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend breezed through to deliver a hug.

Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan and Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger, Townsend's most likely rivals for the 2002 gubernatorial nomination, also stopped by.

Schaefer denied rumors -- fueled by a House-passed bill that would let the comptroller anoint his own midterm replacement -- that he is unhappy in his job.

"Absolutely not," he said. "I will finish my term and may run again."

Senate debate turns into `bully' pulpit for pair

The Maryland Senate, with its tradition of civility and formality, rarely sees days like Thursday. It was breezy outside, but in the stuffy Senate chamber, two powerful senators lost their cool.

It all started over a seemingly minor issue: an insurance bill intended to protect people from unscrupulous attorneys. Sen. Walter M. Baker, chairman of the Judicial Proceedings Committee and a retired attorney, resented it.

In an unusual speech on the Senate floor, Baker said he would take it personally if senators voted for the bill. The Senate went ahead and gave the bill preliminary approval. When another innocuous bill by a colleague came up, Baker implied he was going to vote against it as retaliation.

At that point, Senate Finance Chairman Thomas L. Bromwell rose angrily from his seat.

Leaving his desk, Bromwell pointed his index finger at Baker and yelled, "Stop being a bully! Stop being a bully! And stop threatening senators!"

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller told Bromwell to relax, saying the whole fight was silly. Later, Senate Majority Leader Clarence W. Blount made an appeal to his colleagues to rediscover the Senate's tradition of civility.

Afterward, Bromwell and Baker appeared to make up. Asked what the fuss was all about, Bromwell replied, "Testosterone."

Sun staff writer Gady A. Epstein contributed to this article.

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