Schaefer wins primary

Gladden beats Hoffman

Redistricting, race issues tip contest for Senate seat from NW Baltimore

Voter turnout light statewide

Comptroller turns away lively challenge of Willis, backed by Glendening

Election 2002

September 11, 2002|By David Nitkin | David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

William Donald Schaefer withstood his toughest challenge in decades to capture the Democratic primary for state comptroller, and Del. Lisa A. Gladden defeated veteran state Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman last night in a racially charged contest in Northwest Baltimore.

In a legislative district born of an ugly reapportionment process, Gladden, a black first-term delegate backed by Baltimore's most influential African-American leaders, had significant edge over Hoffman, who is white.

In another General Assembly race shaped by redistricting, Del. Maggie L. McIntosh was leading in early results for a seat in the 43rd District in Northeast Baltimore. McIntosh, the House majority leader, waged an aggressive independent campaign against a slate of three incumbent delegates.

Hoffman's loss robs the city of one its most influential political leaders, with a career cut short by the once-a-decade remapping process. A win by Gladden, however, provides a boost for the many black leaders who backed her candidacy, calling her a strong voice for the city's future.

Primary voters formally selected Republican Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Democrat Kathleen Kennedy Townsend as nominees for governor, an outcome preordained for months.

Many Democratic voters, however, cast ballots against Townsend in favor of little-known candidate Robert Raymond Fustero, a retired grocery clerk from Rockville.

Interviews with voters at polls also suggested that Townsend has her work cut out for her between now and the Nov. 5 general election despite Maryland's nearly 2-1 Democratic edge in voter registration. Many voters said they have yet to see a compelling reason to vote for her.

"She's got to come out with strong issues for the general election to keep me a Democrat," said Margaret Cunningham, 64, a retired labor relations manager from Woodlawn.

"She's not vibrant enough. Her stage presence is not enough. She's got to get the adrenaline going in people, and she's not doing it. She's Milquetoast."

At a victory party in Canton, Townsend said she was focused on the weeks ahead:

"Tonight is a night to pull us all together. I can't say this has been a hard-fought [primary] election, but I can say that I'm raising the issues that are important to the people of Maryland."

Turnout was light statewide as voters headed to the polls under bright skies, but with only a few competitive contests to capture their imagination.

Schaefer, 80, the former governor and Baltimore mayor seeking his second term as comptroller, rebuffed a surprising onslaught from Maryland Secretary of State John T. Willis, a former chief of staff to Gov. Parris N. Glendening.

Willis, 55, became a candidate at the last possible moment in July, waging an upstart campaign that drew on support from government worker unions, Democratic clubs, environmentalists and other groups that felt alienated by Schaefer.

Willis' effort gained momentum in the past week through radio advertisements and telephone banks funded by at least $50,000 in leftover funds from Glendening's campaign account.

The advertisements highlighted Schaefer's intemperate remarks and environmental voting record on the state Board of Public Works, made up of the comptroller, governor and state treasurer.

Many observers believe that Glendening urged Willis to run to exact revenge against Schaefer. Willis denies that and calls it insulting.

Still, the current and former governors have feuded for much of the past four years, turning public works meetings into theatrical events.

Not only has Schaefer voted against land preservation programs backed by Glendening, but he also played a key role in triggering the disclosure of Glendening's relationship with a high-ranking aide who is 24 years his junior.

Glendening subsequently divorced his wife and married aide Jennifer Crawford, and the two recently had a baby girl.

As Glendening mounted his assault - with ads that criticized Schaefer for referring to African-Americans as "Afros" and calling women "little girls" - a flock of politicians gathered in Schaefer's defense.

Supporters included Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, Townsend and U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski. The back-and-forth made for one of the liveliest contests in the primary.

The barbs found their mark with voters such as Maureen Philip, 62, a nurse from Prince George's County who said it was time for Schaefer to retire.

"I wish I could go back to the days when I was a little girl, but I can't, and now it is not a compliment," Philip said. "It is an insult."

Most voters were unswayed, however, choosing to keep a political legend around for another four years.

"Don Schaefer as been a pretty good man, and honest as far as I know," said Ernest Couplin, 69, a retired inspector at Eastern Stainless Steel who was voting at Middlesex Elementary School in Baltimore County.

"He's the kind of guy we need down there in Annapolis."

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