Pot shots miss mark

September 11, 2002

IN AT LEAST two races, Maryland voters, in both the Republican and Democratic parties, wisely stiff-armed cheap shot attempts to oust valued public servants for narrow, selfish reasons.

Most offensive was the surrogate campaign waged in the Democratic primary against Comptroller William Donald Schaefer by his successor and political rival, Gov. Parris N. Glendening.

Mr. Glendening backed a challenge to Mr. Schaefer by longtime Glendening ally John T. Willis as part of a vendetta borne of personal pique. Mr. Schaefer, a popular former governor and Baltimore mayor, irritates Mr. Glendening and gets in his way as a member of the powerful state Board of Public Works. He has also gone public about embarrassing aspects of the governor's personal life.

But that sort of orneriness is one of the reasons Maryland voters admire Mr. Schaefer, whose long record of accomplishment far outpaces Mr. Glendening's.

Despite a nasty campaign laced with slurs by Glendening/Willis, Democrats overwhelmingly favored Mr. Schaefer, who will probably be sitting on the Board of Public Works long after the term-limited governor has moved on to other pastures.

Meanwhile, Maryland Republicans in the 1st Congressional District, which encompasses the Eastern Shore, also did their party proud. They turned thumbs down on a crusade waged by outside interest groups against six-term incumbent Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest.

Mr. Gilchrest has risen, over his dozen years in the House, to become one of his party's top leaders on environmental issues. But some one-issue interest groups decided his record didn't quite hew to their line and tried to replace him with a Timonium lawyer who admitted he was little more than a front man for the effort. President Bush and Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., now the GOP nominee for governor, both interceded on behalf of Mr. Gilchrest, defying the conservative forces backing the challenger.

One would hope such groups will get the message to peddle their negative tactics elsewhere.

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