Open letter: Schaefer must go

In e-mail opposing comptroller, activist women say `enough is enough'

Maryland Votes 2006

September 08, 2006|By Stephanie Desmon | Stephanie Desmon,sun reporter

Schaefer — Fed up with the latest antics of Maryland's comptroller, a group of politically active women in the state sent an e-mail to thousands of voters yesterday beginning with the sentence: "William Donald Schaefer is an affront to women and he must go."

Schaefer - the 84-year-old former city councilman, Baltimore mayor and Maryland governor - hurled personal barbs this week at Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens, one of his opponents in Tuesday's Democratic primary, calling her a "Mother Hubbard," disparaging her hair and her clothing and even saying she was "getting fat." All of this came on the campaign trail.

The purpose of the e-mail wasn't to endorse either Owens or Montgomery County Del. Peter Franchot, the other candidate in the three-way race, its authors said. The message is simple: Anybody but Schaefer.

"We believe this is just beyond politics. The governor's comments are offensive to women and enough is enough," said Karen White, national political director of EMILY'S List, who was campaign manager for former Gov. Parris N. Glendening's re-election bid in 1998. White's is the first of eight signatures on the "Open Letter to the Women of Maryland." Among the others who signed the letter is Frances Hughes Glendening, the former governor's ex-wife.

The letter asks voters to "spread the word regarding Schaefer's shameful behavior and encourage women from all walks of life, from all areas of our state, to take action and reject his chauvinistic and patriarchal conduct." It asks people to "sign on to this condemnation and intolerance by emailing us at schaefermustgo@yahoo.com."

Laslo Boyd, Schaefer's campaign manager, said some of the things the comptroller has said in recent days have come from a "personal frustration" with Owens, who before deciding to run for comptroller had told Schaefer she would not. He said her campaign slogan "It's Time" is a "thinly veiled shot at his age" and that taken together "it got to him."

The Owens campaign said yesterday that the slogan is not an attack on Schaefer's age.

Boyd called Schaefer's outbursts directed at Owens "venting."

"He feels let down and deceived by her," Boyd said.

Boyd also questioned some of the motives of the letter's authors, some of whom are affiliated with Glendening, a longtime political foe of Schaefer's.

Schaefer in recent years has lashed out at immigrants, non-English speakers and people with AIDS. This year, he was roundly condemned for making suggestive comments to a female aide who had just handed him a mug and walked away, commanding her to return and then "walk again" as he watched.

He hasn't lost an election in 50 years, but polls suggest he could be in one of the toughest races of his career.

Owens, 62, issued a statement yesterday saying, "the latest round of personal insults by William Donald Schaefer has crossed over the line of decency. ... Schaefer's behavior should not be tolerated by anyone."

The comptroller is the state's chief tax collector and makes decisions about the way the state spends its money.

Said Kathleen Schafer, chair of Harriet's List, a nonprofit political action committee to elect Democratic women who support abortion rights, who also signed the letter: "Somebody who is in a position like this who continues to degrade women should not be in a position like this."

stephanie.desmon@baltsun.com

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