Schaefer wins reluctant nod from archrival

The Political Game

Endorsement: Despite a longtime grudge, Blair Lee IV sees some logic in re-electing the state comptroller.

September 03, 2002|By David Nitkin and Howard Libit | David Nitkin and Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

AFTER DECADES of acrimony, William Donald Schaefer has won the grudging support of one of his archrivals: Blair Lee IV, the influential political columnist, developer and former lobbyist from Montgomery County.

Lee's father, Blair Lee III, was acting governor in 1978 after a mail-fraud conviction removed Marvin Mandel from office, but he lost the election. The younger Lee blames Schaefer, in part, for failing to turn out the Baltimore vote.

"When [Schaefer] ran for governor, I managed his opponent's campaign," Lee wrote in a column last week. "When the election was over, he tried to get me kicked out of the Democratic Party."

But Lee now says he is supporting Schaefer in his primary contest against John Willis, the secretary of state who many believe is being propped up by Gov. Parris N. Glendening, another Schaefer enemy.

Here is Lee's logic, in his own words:

"One, the choice is really between Schaefer and Glendening. You may not like Schaefer's politics, but at least he stands for something greater than himself. Glendening stands for nothing except himself.

"Two, he deserves it. With no family, no life and no other job, he says he'll die if he loses. Do you want that on your conscience?

"Third, the state's facing a $1 billion budget deficit. If Schaefer loses and doesn't die, he gets a huge state pension. So it's cheaper to pay Schaefer's comptroller's salary and avoid paying his pension."

With support like that, who needs detractors?

Mitchell cries foul over challenger's tactic

Sen. Clarence M. Mitchell IV is crying foul over a Maryland Legislative Black Caucus mailing sent by Del. Verna L. Jones, his opponent in the 44th District Senate primary.

Tucked inside the six-page mailing - which Jones sent to about 3,000 primary voters - was an endorsement letter from Sen. Clarence W. Blount. The retiring Senate majority leader wrote that Jones "is the best candidate for the State Senate in the new 44th District" and that he hopes she "will rise to leadership in the State Senate."

Mitchell, who was sent a copy, charges that the mailing suggests the caucus is essentially endorsing Jones, too.

"Our issue is propriety," Mitchell said. "You think when you get it, it's a caucus piece. This is borderline fraudulent."

But Jamie Kendrick, Jones' campaign manager, dismissed Mitchell's complaints, saying no costs were paid with taxpayer dollars. The caucus makes the mailing available to any members who want to send it out, and postage was paid by the campaign.

"I would think he would support our goal of sharing the message of black caucus with the people of the 44th District," Kendrick said. "We're not sure what he's most upset about - that he didn't think to send out the caucus mailing to his constituents, or that one of the most respected members of the Senate chose to endorse his opponent."

Not-so-peaceful scenes from movie on State Circle

The decorum of the nation's oldest continually used legislative building - the State House in Annapolis - was shattered last week by a young man with a bullhorn hurling profanity at a governor's office window.

Comedian Chris Rock stood on State Circle on Thursday, berating someone named Lewis.

Lewis' mother, according to Rock, has a rather large posterior. So large, he said, that numbers attached to it could stamp out license plates. So large it needs fog lamps. So large it shows up on air-traffic control. In other words, pretty large.

Lewis, it turns out, is a fictional vice president and a central character in Head of State, the latest Rock film in production. Rock, who is also directing the movie, plays Mays Gilliam, a Washington alderman who becomes a presidential candidate. Several scenes were shot in Annapolis last week, including one in the House of Delegates lounge.

The bullhorn was used to taunt Lewis into accepting a series of debates.

Maybe Republican Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. could adopt the strategy in his campaign for governor. He's had little luck persuading Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend to take the stage with him.

Of course, he'd probably have more success if he avoided mention of Ethel Kennedy's anatomy.

Road ahead looks bumpy in Montgomery County

If last week's poll of Democratic voters in Maryland's 8th Congressional District is any indication, Ehrlich has his work cut out for him in Montgomery County.

The poll found that 35 percent of likely Democratic voters haven't heard of the Baltimore County congressman. Only 13 percent have a favorable impression of Ehrlich, and 25 percent have an unfavorable impression, according to the poll conducted for The Sun and The Gazette newspapers by Potomac Survey Research.

By contrast, Townsend is almost universally known, and two-thirds of the likely primary voters have a favorable impression of her. Only 14 percent have an unfavorable impression.

Which Maryland politician has the highest name recognition among Democrats in the district? The incumbent Rep. Constance A. Morella, who is a Republican.

Morella is known by 99 percent of the voters, with 66 percent having a favorable impression and 22 percent having an unfavorable impression. Pretty impressive for a poll of likely voters of the opposition party.

Pollster Keith Haller, president of Potomac, suggests there's a lesson for Ehrlich to be found in these numbers. "If you were Ehrlich," he said, "you would definitely want to wrap yourself among the wonderful Morella magic here."

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