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  •   A Rush to Field Comptroller Candidates

    By Daniel LeDuc
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Sunday, July 5, 1998; Page B01

    With the death of longtime Maryland Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein (D) so close to tomorrow's candidate filing deadline, political leaders in both major parties spent the Fourth of July holiday publicly smiling at parades and privately tearing up the phone lines to find a new candidate.

    Goldstein died late Friday at 85, after suffering an apparent heart attack at his home in Calvert County, authorities said. His death left Maryland's political establishment without a colorful personage, its most constant of the last six decades, and created, for the first time in a generation, a new political opportunity for Democrats and Republicans alike.

    Who runs for comptroller now could have implications throughout state politics, especially in the governor's race. Prominent Democratic heavyweights, including Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), were weighing in to make sure the party finds a strong candidate, while Republicans were salivating at the chance to run against someone other than "Mr. Maryland," as Goldstein was dubbed.

    Yesterday, there appeared to be no front-runner in either party, and the only thing politicians of all stripes agreed on was that tomorrow would bring a flurry of candidates to file for the job Goldstein had held for the last 40 years.

    "My phone has rung off the hook this morning with people looking to get into this race," said state Republican Chairman Joyce Lyons Terhes. Previously, these people "didn't want to run against an institution. [Goldstein's death] changes the whole dynamics."

    A key Democratic source, who did not wish to be named, agreed: "Things are wild right now."

    Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Prince George's) noted that Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) needs a well-known comptroller candidate to help in what could prove a tough reelection battle this fall. "The big issue is there is no other Democratic candidate filed for this position," he said.

    "It would help the governor to have the strongest possible candidate running on the ticket. Mr. Goldstein was the anchor of the Democratic ticket every four-year cycle since 1958."

    Goldstein died less than two weeks after he had announced plans to run for an unprecedented 11th term in office, pronouncing himself fit and full of pep. Yesterday, state officials said Goldstein will lie in state at the State House in Annapolis from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. tomorrow. The funeral is scheduled for Trinity United Methodist Church in Prince Frederick at 11 a.m. Tuesday.

    Glendening declined to talk publicly yesterday about the political implications of Goldstein's death and, a spokesman said, Glendening ordered his campaign not to distribute political posters or stickers during his public appearances on the holiday. There was no indication yesterday whom Glendening will appoint as interim comptroller.

    "There will be plenty of time to chose someone later," Glendening said yesterday through a spokesman.

    Still, virtually everyone else in Maryland politics was buzzing over what would happen to the comptroller's position, one of only three offices elected statewide. The comptroller is the state's chief tax collector and bill payer and, perhaps more important, serves on the three-member Board of Public Works. That powerful body awards most state contracts and approves major purchases.

    J. Millard Tawes used the comptroller's post as a springboard to the governorship in 1958. Goldstein then replaced him, and other than an unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaign in 1964, he did not aspire to higher office. But whoever replaces Goldstein potentially could turn the office into a statewide base of political power to launch campaigns for governor or other prominent positions.

    "If somebody is ambitious and has a fire burning in the belly, then it's an ideal spot," Miller said.

    Goldstein was considered so unbeatable that Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann decided it was easier to challenge Glendening for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination this year than to take on the comptroller.

    Several Democratic sources said Rehrmann had long expressed an interest in the comptroller's race until Goldstein decided he would run one last time.

    They said one possible move now would be for Glendening to appoint Rehrmann to the job, allowing her to run as an incumbent and eliminating her as a gubernatorial challenger. Rehrmann did not return several telephone calls seeking comment, and many politicians saw that scenario as unlikely given the bad blood between the two politicians.

    Among other Democrats mentioned by party sources are state Treasurer Richard N. Dixon, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Barbara A. Hoffman (Baltimore), House Appropriations Chairman Howard P. Rawlings (Baltimore) and Del. Nancy K. Kopp (Montgomery), who is widely respected in the General Assembly for her grasp of fiscal issues.

    Miller said he would not seek the post, and House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. (D-Allegany), who has been mentioned as a possible candidate, said he has "never given a thought to serving as comptroller."

    On the Republican side, Tim Mayberry, of Boonsboro, who ran against Goldstein four years ago, is on the ballot again. In a statement, he said he would refrain from campaigning this weekend in deference to Goldstein.

    GOP leaders expect more prominent candidates to file now, and among the names mentioned are Sen. Robert R. Neall (Anne Arundel) and Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker, who currently is running for the GOP gubernatorial nomination.

    Intermediaries for Ellen R. Sauerbrey, the leading GOP gubernatorial candidate, have urged Ecker to run for comptroller. He said Friday night that he would not. He plans a campaign announcement tomorrow, and a GOP source said it will be to announce his lieutenant governor's selection.

    Miller said the person who wins the job in November will have celebrity status in state politics. "People are going to be very anxious to see and hear this person, to find out who is taking over for Louie Goldstein," Miller said.

    Goldstein's family requested no flowers, but suggested contributions to Calvert Memorial Hospital in Prince Frederick or Washington College in Chestertown, Md.

    Staff writer Robert E. Pierre contributed to this report.

    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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