2 Baltimore fund-raisers backing run by Duncan

They praise O'Malley, say his job is unfinished

December 10, 2004|By Doug Donovan and David Nitkin | Doug Donovan and David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

Two prominent Baltimore Democratic fund-raisers have joined Montgomery's county executive in his campaign to discourage Mayor Martin O'Malley from joining the race for governor - not through threats or insults, but by praising him for good work that shouldn't be left unfinished.

"With Doug Duncan as governor and Mayor O'Malley at the helm of our city, we are confident that our best days are before us," write Calman J. "Buddy" Zamoiski Jr., Thomas Segal and their wives in an invitation to a Dec. 14 fund-raiser for Montgomery's county executive.

As Douglas M. Duncan prepares for his latest fund-raising foray on O'Malley's turf next week, the letter bolsters a strategy designed by Duncan's team to spread a message that the city needs the mayor's skillful leadership so much that he couldn't possibly abandon Baltimore for Annapolis.

And he's using O'Malley's own words as ammunition.

O'Malley said in his inauguration speech Tuesday that his administration has unfinished business in Baltimore. "Our work is not done, because better isn't good enough."

Duncan keyed on that theme this week, as he did earlier this month after O'Malley characterized the city's crime and schools as "out of control" in an internal e-mail.

The three-term Montgomery county executive used both instances to pursue a tactic of saying that O'Malley should not let Baltimore down by trying to go to Annapolis if his goals for the city aren't fulfilled.

"He talked [Tuesday] about all his unfinished business," Duncan said. "What [my Baltimore supporters] are saying is that there is work to be done in the city and that he needs to finish the job."

Duncan has enlisted the two prominent Democratic donors to add weight to his words. The donors, who are holding a downtown fund-raising cocktail party, say in the invitation that they support O'Malley's efforts as mayor but that Baltimore-area Democrats should back Duncan for governor.

"Our family has been lifelong Democrats and we believe this is a critical time for our city and state. We wish to see Mayor O'Malley continue to lead our city. He will have our unwavering support," states the letter signed also by the donors' wives, Ellen Zamoiski and Clair Zamoiski Segal, who is Buddy Zamoiski's daughter.

The letter states their full support for Duncan's "bid to become our next governor."

Political experts, including O'Malley, say the unfinished-business strategy will have no effect on whether the mayor runs for governor in 2006.

"Whether or not he says I'm running has no bearing on whether I run or not," O'Malley said. "Perhaps he thinks it's helpful to his efforts to try to dampen any enthusiasm there may be around the state for me."

Matthew Crenson, a political science professor at the Johns Hopkins University, said Duncan's message is unlikely to resonate deeply. A mayor can easily make the case that he or she can help the city more by delivering assistance from Annapolis, Crenson said.

"People who follow Baltimore politics know how much damage can occur when there is a rift between the mayor and the governor," Crenson said. When a mayor goes to Annapolis, that rift fades.

Duncan is trying to dampen O'Malley's hometown support, despite the mayor's overwhelming 87 percent election victory last month and polls showing that O'Malley could easily defeat Duncan for the gubernatorial nomination if the contest were held today.

A statewide survey conducted for The Sun in late October showed that O'Malley would beat Duncan, 52 percent to 36 percent, in a Democratic primary. Duncan's name recognition was much lower, with 47 percent of registered voters saying they had not heard of the Montgomery executive, compared with 29 percent who did not know of the mayor.

Still, Duncan has made significant inroads with powerful supporters in Baltimore, including Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos, developer David Hillman and state Comptroller William Donald Schaefer. Now, Zamoiski and Segal join the list.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said Duncan is smart to make as many connections as he can in Baltimore, where his name recognition is low. "It's absolutely necessary if he is going to have a shot at winning the primary or the general election to make huge inroads in Baltimore," Miller said.

As a former Washington-area county executive eyeing a run for governor, Prince George's County's Parris N. Glendening did it over and over, Miller said.

Duncan and Buddy Zamoiski have a personal relationship, Miller said, which stems from the county executive's support of the Music Center at Strathmore in Montgomery County. The 2,000-seat facility is to open to the public in February as a Washington-area venue for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Zamoiski was a longtime orchestra board member, serving two stints as chairman before resigning last month.

"Duncan went to bat for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra," Miller said. "I'm sure Buddy Zamoiski enjoys dealing with him."

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