A party favor for 2002?

The Political Game

Governor: Some speculate on a switch by Wayne Curry to become friend Robert Ehrlich's GOP running mate.

October 30, 2001|By David Nitkin and Michael Dresser | David Nitkin and Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

IT'S PREMATURE, of course. But even without a single formally announced candidate in next year's race for governor, there's already talk about potential running mates.

One of the most intriguing combinations has Prince George's County Executive Wayne K. Curry switching parties and running for lieutenant governor on a ticket led by Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican from Timonium.

"I know that they are very good friends, and they are simpatico," said Audrey Scott, the lone Republican on the Prince George's County Council, who says she will run for governor if Ehrlich does not. "I know the conversations have taken place."

The logic behind such a partnership is seductive.

Ehrlich isn't well-known beyond his district but is buoyed by focus groups and polling that indicate support for Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend is thin. He needs inroads in the populous Washington suburbs to be competitive. Curry would provide an attractive blend of geographic and racial diversity.

Curry might love the chance to campaign against the Glendening-Townsend administration while avoiding an expensive primary fight. He's no fan of the lieutenant governor and blames his predecessor as county executive, Gov. Parris N. Glendening, for leaving a budget deficit that stymied his own agenda.

Curry would have to abandon his gubernatorial aspirations and his party identification to go along with the plan, but in theory the idea is not all that far-fetched.

State GOP Chairman Michael S. Steele said he has spoken with Curry several times over the past three years about changing parties, mainly because Steele believes the executive's views fit with the GOP's platform.

But Steele said Curry has never seriously considered the offer. "It would be a coup," Steele said, "but I don't think it is going to happen any time soon."

"I have great respect for [Curry]," Ehrlich said. "Everybody knows he inherited a mess from Parris. ... We talk about policy, but we haven't talked about the other stuff."

Curry did not return telephone messages, but a top aide said such conversations have taken place. The scenario, however, remains unlikely. "There's no way Wayne is going to switch parties," the aide said.

Treasurer not laughing about Schaefer squabbles

Send in the clowns? Don't bother, they're here - at the Board of Public Works.

For months, Treasurer Richard N. Dixon had been quietly enduring the insults and snide comments of Comptroller William Donald Schaefer at meetings of the state board that hands out millions of dollars in construction contracts and land purchases each month.

Last week, Schaefer began his opening monologue - a regular feature at board meetings - by saying he was "embarrassed" at some of Dixon's 2-1 majority votes with Gov. Parris N. Glendening.

Dixon, who usually takes such comments with stoic silence, apparently had had as much as he could take. "I'm embarrassed by [Schaefer] acting like a quirky clown at these meetings," he said.

That set off a near shouting match between the two officials until Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend managed to calm them down.

For his offense, Dixon and everyone else in the room had to endure a long meeting during which Schaefer repeatedly made mock apologies for his "quirky" questions. Schaefer said later that Dixon stopped working with him when "they called him in and said work with the governor or else."

Schaefer identified "they" as Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. and Major F. Riddick Jr., Glendening's former chief of staff.

Governor's counselor among bench prospects

The governor's counsel, the General Assembly's chief legal adviser and a Baltimore County delegate are among the applicants for vacancies on the Maryland bench - choices that are up to the governor.

Mary Ellen Barbera, Glendening's chief legal aide, and Robert Zarnoch, the legislature's counsel, have passed their first test in their bids to win seats on the Court of Special Appeals, the state's junior appellate court. Each has been recommended by a judicial nominating commission and is on the list from which the governor will choose.

Three vacancies exist on the Court of Special Appeals.

Del. Michael J. Finifter, a two-term Democrat, is seeking his local commission's recommendation for his bid to fill one of two vacancies on the Baltimore County Circuit Court.

JFK's daughter to appear at cousin's fund-raiser

Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, the daughter of John F. Kennedy, whose collection of her mother's favorite poems is on the New York Times best seller list, is scheduled to appear at the Silver Spring Hilton Hotel today for a $100-a-head luncheon for her cousin, Mark Shriver. Shriver, a state delegate, is running for Congress and has raised more money than any challenger in the nation, according to published reports.

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