O'Malley spars with Ehrlich on request

Calls Schaefer suggestion `petty and purely political'

October 25, 2003|By Doug Donovan | Doug Donovan,SUN STAFF

Like boxers exchanging barbs at a news conference long before the fight, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Mayor Martin O'Malley took another round of political shots at one another yesterday.

This week, Ehrlich requested in a letter to O'Malley that the mayor appoint state Comptroller William Donald Schaefer to the board governing Baltimore's convention and visitors bureau.

Political analysts saw it as a blatant move to place O'Malley in an awkward situation. Rejecting the appointment could risk alienating Schaefer and his Democratic allies in 2006, when many expect O'Malley to challenge Ehrlich for governor.

By appointing Schaefer, O'Malley would be inviting a vocal critic of his administration into a local position from which to publicly lambaste the mayor on economic development.

Yesterday, O'Malley tried to navigate those tricky political waters during an interview on radio station WBAL.

"Often times, Governor Ehrlich thinks he's being calculating and cute, when to the more discerning members of the public, his behavior appears petty and purely political in the smallest sense of that word," O'Malley said. "And I would hope that as time goes by he directs more of his energies toward learning how to govern and less towards trying to look cute for [former] Governor Schaefer."

Ehrlich, a Republican, could not be reached to comment. His spokesman, Greg Massoni, said: "Martin obviously feels he needs to run a four-year campaign against this governor."

"What is being lost here is a great marketer and promoter of Baltimore in William Donald Schaefer. Nothing more needs to be said," Massoni added.

O'Malley, a Democrat, had said more about that point to WBAL, noting that Schaefer already sits on the state Board of Public Works.

"A person of Governor Schaefer's energy and talents understandably becomes a little bit bored with the work that happens at the Board of Public Works, but in these very tough budget times ... that's where his talents and his energies are needed for the city of Baltimore, and I wouldn't want to do anything that would distract him from that."

Does that mean O'Malley will not appoint Schaefer?

His spokeswoman, Raquel Guillory, said, "That's as far as we're going to go."

Schaefer could not be reached to comment.

Sun staff writer David Nitkin contributed to this article.

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