Townsend campaign takes on shades of 1998

The Political Game

Strategy: Key communicator and others from Glendening's campaign have joined the lieutenant governor's "war room."

August 20, 2002|By Howard Libit and David Nitkin | Howard Libit and David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

IT'S BEGINNING to look like a 1998 reunion at Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend's Mount Washington headquarters.

After complaints that her campaign has failed to spark much interest among the party faithful, the expected Democratic nominee for governor is busily reassembling the crew that engineered Gov. Parris N. Glendening's successful re-election effort.

"In the 1998 campaign, we had a great model," said Alan Fleischmann, Townsend's campaign chairman.

Peter S. Hamm, spokesman for the 1998 Glendening-Townsend campaign, took over the same role for Townsend yesterday. Hamm is taking a leave from his job as senior vice president at The Hawthorn Group, an international public relations firm based in Alexandria, Va.

"There's no one else who could have convinced me to come back to politics for one more race," said Hamm, who at 41 said he is getting too old for campaigns.

Hamm's selection comes just days after Townsend and Fleischmann persuaded Karen White to join the team and oversee the campaign's grass-roots, get-out-the-vote effort. White managed the 1998 Glendening-Townsend campaign.

Also last week, Townsend announced that Sen. Clarence W. Blount, the longest-serving African-American in the General Assembly, will be a senior adviser to the campaign.

"We're pulling together our war room," Fleischmann said yesterday. "We've done some right things in the last couple of weeks to really refine our team and get all hands on deck."

Hamm joins press secretary Len Foxwell and deputy press secretary Kate Philips in dealing with the media. Michael Morrill -- a former Glendening spokesman and veteran of Maryland Democratic campaigns -- will focus on long-term strategy as communications director.

"Some of the concerns people have shared with us in the last month is that our schedule has not been strategic or communicated to them," Fleischmann said.

"With Peter in the office, Len on the road and Mike being lead communications director, we'll make sure all the I's are being dotted and the T's will be crossed," he said.

Localities fear being used by Annapolis to cut budget

Maryland's local government leaders gathered in Ocean City last week amid a sobering realization: In a few months, for the first time in 16 years, they will not have one of their own as governor.

That could be a problem, local officials say, as the state faces its worst budget woes in a decade and could balance its books in part by slashing aid to local governments.

Glendening delivered Saturday his final address to the Maryland Association of Counties, a group that helped propel his political career when he was Prince George's County executive.

A former association president, Glendening told the crowd he hoped his successor would be Townsend.

But Townsend, unlike Glendening and former Baltimore Mayor William Donald Schaefer before him, has never been elected to local office. She has never negotiated a police contract or directed snow plows during a storm.

Neither has Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., the likely GOP nominee for governor and former state delegate.

That the next governor will lack municipal experience worries local officials. Apart from election-year politics, a favorite topic of MACO's annual summer conference was how looming cuts to close a $900 million state budget shortfall will affect counties and cities.

"We are at the bottom of the food chain, and we will be eaten first," said Murray D. Levy, head of the Charles County commissioners.

Levy is among local veterans who remember the painful recession of the early 1990s, when the state made several rounds of cuts in local aid -- each more painful than the last.

Educating Maryland's next governor about how budget cuts would crimp local services "has been a topic of discussion among the leadership," said Montgomery County Councilwoman Marilyn J. Praisner, first vice president of the association.

"That historic perspective isn't necessarily there," said David Bliden, MACO's executive director.

Townsend said she has met with county leaders and has heard their concerns. "The biggest aid to local governments we give is for education, and education is sacrosanct," she said. "It is going to be preserved."

She also promised to provide adequate funding for public safety. "So the two largest funds for local government are within my budget priorities," she said.

Ehrlich, too, is sensitive to the needs of Maryland's counties, said his spokesman, Paul Schurick.

"County governments are at the front line of serving people," Schurick said. "The state has made many commitments and promises to county governments over the years, and the Ehrlich administration will keep those promises."

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