Enjoying limelight as his tenure wanes

The Political Game

Publicity: With a few well-timed remarks, Gov. Parris N. Glendening, who has kept a low profile of late, makes national news.

July 30, 2002|By David Nitkin and Howard Libit | David Nitkin and Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

HIS VISIBILITY has diminished since the close of his final legislative session and the start of the campaign to succeed him, but Gov. Parris N. Glendening garnered national attention during a few busy days last week as head of the Democratic Governors' Association.

Glendening was in Manhattan on July 22, attending a major Democratic fund-raiser for New York candidates. "The focus was bringing people together, and being focused on the prize," said Ramona Oliver, a spokeswoman for the Democratic governors.

After chatting with Massachusetts Sen. John F. Kerry at the event at Tavern on the Green in Central Park, the governor scheduled lunch with the presidential wannabe for the next day.

"I like his environmental policy in a big way," said Glendening of Kerry, when spotted emerging from the senator's Capitol office July 23. "It was a free-floating discussion of what the national government can or ought to be doing to be more aggressive on environmental policy."

Also on July 23, Glendening met with reporters and editors from USA Today in Washington, briefing them on the prospects of Democratic gubernatorial contenders nationwide in the November elections.

But it was the governor's comments about President Bush's monthlong vacation at his Texas ranch that got the most attention.

"It's clearly the wrong signal," Glendening was quoted as saying in a front-page story Wednesday in the nation's top-circulating paper. "In times of financial crisis and international crisis, the public looks for hands-on, confident leadership. What we're going to see is every-other-day photo ops from the ranch."

Glendening's comments drew a rebuke from White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, who called them "unfortunate and disappointing," according to USA Today.

The remarks were picked up by comedian and talk-show host Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central's The Daily Show.

"The president quickly denied the accusation, saying `Every other day?' What am I, a machine? I'm on vacation here,'" Stewart quipped.

Glendening hasn't had this much attention in a long time. Prohibited from seeking a third consecutive term and with a pregnant wife who is expected to give birth this summer, Glendening has kept a low profile of late.

He has yet to announce his plans for when he leaves the governor's mansion, although he appears to have ruled out a post in higher education, and has said in recent interviews that he would like an environmental post instead.

Letter to papers boosts tension in Senate campaign

The Democratic primary between state Sen. Arthur Dorman and Del. John A. Giannetti Jr. is shaping up as a nasty battle for the Senate seat in Prince George's and Anne Arundel counties.

In the latest skirmish, Giannetti's camp is criticizing the Dorman campaign for writing a letter to local newspapers on behalf of Etna Casula, whose late husband, Frank, was the popular mayor of Laurel.

In the letter - which was published in the Prince George's Journal but pulled from two other papers - Casula wrote about how much Dorman "cares about Laurel" and called on voters to join her "in voting to re-elect Art Dorman."

It turns out the author of the letter wasn't Casula, but a member of Dorman's campaign staff. Giannetti says he counts Casula among his supporters and accuses Dorman of exerting undue pressure to get her to agree to the letter.

"It's a surprise to me that he made the mistake he did, but he did and he should pay a price," said Giannetti, who was thrown into Dorman's district by redistricting and opted to take on the seven-term senator rather than challenge the established team of three delegates. "Writing a letter, signing someone's name to it and then submitting it to newspapers seems to cross the line."

Dorman, who is acting chairman of the Senate Finance Committee after the retirement of Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell, acknowledges that someone on his staff wrote the letter on behalf of Casula - something he can't remember happening with any other newspaper endorsement letters.

"I was close to her, I served with Frank for 25 years," Dorman said. "Etna agreed to the letter, and then she called back a day letter to say she objected. I called my people and they said the letter had already gone out.

"She said, `Okay, forget about it.' If she had still objected, I would have gone to the papers. But she didn't," Dorman said.

Both candidates say they're upset about dragging Casula into the race and seek to apologize to her.

And what does Casula say? She declined to comment to The Sun. But she told the Journal, "Both candidates were friends of my late husband" and she doesn't want to choose sides. "I just feel hurt more than anything," she said.

In race for comptroller, Willis lines up supporters

Maryland Secretary of State John T. Willis has picked up some big-name support in his uphill race for state comptroller against incumbent William Donald Schaefer. Among those signing on as co-chairs of Willis' campaign: former Gov. Harry R. Hughes, former Rep. Michael D. Barnes, Baltimore County state Sen. Delores G. Kelley and Baltimore City Councilman Bernard C. "Jack" Young.

"It's time for a change, and John Willis is the change we need," said Hughes in a release issued by the Willis campaign.

Sun staff writer Julie Hirschfield Davis contributed to this column.

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