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  • Maryland Elections '98

  •   Glendening's Connections Fray in Baltimore

    By Charles Babington and Lisa Frazier
    Washington Post Staff Writers
    Thursday, January 29, 1998; Page M01

    Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) has political worries in Baltimore as he readies his reelection campaign: Three of his top organizers from the 1994 campaign are off his team for one reason or another.

    The three -- Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, political adviser Larry Gibson and former state senator Larry Young, all Democrats -- played important roles in Glendening's narrow 1994 victory and ordinarily would be counted on for major help this year. But all three have fallen off the bandwagon.

    Schmoke had a bitter dispute with Glendening over a 1996 private discussion about legalizing slot machines, which Schmoke favors. The mayor says Glendening misrepresented what transpired between the two men, and he has been fuming on the political sidelines ever since.

    Many political activists believe Schmoke eventually will endorse Glendening because it's regarded as traitorous for a high-ranking official to oppose his party's incumbent in a major election. But Schmoke might show little enthusiasm, they say, which could dampen voter turnout in heavily Democratic Baltimore.

    Gibson, long considered Schmoke's top political adviser and a veteran of Baltimore election campaigns, is working for Glendening challenger Eileen M. Rehrmann (D), the Harford county executive. Associates say Gibson is angry at Glendening over the dispute with Schmoke and the governor's insistence on overhauling the management of Baltimore public schools in exchange for increased state funding in 1997.

    Young, who engineered an early reelection endorsement of Glendening by several state senators last year, was expelled from the Senate on ethics charges this month. Glendening now mentions Young as seldom as possible, hoping not to inflame Young's supporters or irritate those who feel Young's violations were egregious.

    Baltimore was one of three jurisdictions, along with Montgomery and Prince George's counties, that Glendening carried in 1994. Some politicians say the loss of Gibson, Young and -- for now, at least -- Schmoke will hurt him in the city, a crucial Democratic base, this fall.

    "I don't think he's going to have the kind of excitement that he had" in 1994, said Del. Tony E. Fulton (D-Baltimore). Fulton, who contends that Glendening has done too little to help drug addicts and others in need, also said: "If someone asked me today if I would support him, I'd say probably not."

    Other Baltimore politicians were far less critical, and a Mason-Dixon Political/Media Research poll released last week shows the governor maintaining a relatively high favorability rating in the city.

    "He'll find some people" to replace Gibson, Young and Schmoke, said Del. Howard P. Rawlings (D-Baltimore). "People will step up to the plate."

    Del. Clarence Davis (D-Baltimore) went further. "I think he's in an excellent position in the city," Davis said. "I feel certain the governor will carry Baltimore City by a margin of up to 7 to 1."

    Tim Phillips, Glendening's campaign manager, said of the troubles with Gibson, Young and Schmoke: "It's way too early to concern ourselves with that." When the legislative session ends in April, he said, "we will assess what we need to do."

    Black Caucus Leader

    Del. Carolyn J.B. Howard (D-Prince George's) will replace ousted senator Larry Young (D-Baltimore) as chairman of the Maryland Legislative Black Caucus until a permanent leader is elected in March or early April.

    Howard, a member of the House of Delegates since 1988, was first vice chairman of the caucus and automatically moved into the top post when Young was expelled from the Senate this month for ethics violations. Howard said her immediate goals are to restructure and revitalize the organization's committees and lead the membership in setting priorities for the session.

    Howard said she is impressed with many of the initiatives pushed by the governor, particularly his record $222 million school construction financing plan and his proposal to provide health insurance to children whose parents make too much money to qualify for Medicaid but cannot afford private insurance.

    Howard, a former elementary school principal, is supervisor of the federally funded Chapter 1 compensatory education program for the Prince George's school system. She said she plans to seek the permanent chairmanship when elections are held near the end of the legislative session.

    "I would like to be the type of leader who will not stress what I can do but works with other caucus members to address various issues," she said. "And in the end, we can all say, 'Look at what we did,' and we can be united."

    What's on Curry's Mind?

    When Glendening (D) gave his State of the State address last week, some local officials, including Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker (R) and Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D), were in attendance. Conspicuous in his absence was Prince George's County Executive Wayne K. Curry (D), whose relations with Glendening have been less than rosy over the last three years.

    At the moment Glendening began his speech, Curry was taking part in a radio show, talking with WAMU-FM host Derek McGinty about various matters, including the county's 25-year-old school desegregation case.

    Curry told McGinty that he tried for six months to negotiate with the school board, using "quiet diplomacy" to formulate a plan to ask the state for funds to build new schools and end busing.

    "I don't know what the sticking point is," Curry said. "I know what the excuses were."

    Curry said the failure of the two sides to come to terms will make it difficult for Prince George's to get the necessary funds from the legislature.

    Curry got in several digs at school board members, whom he blames for not reaching an agreement on the plan. "You've got an elected board," Curry noted at one point. "You see how they react to my involvement in the issues."

    School Board Chairman Alvin Thornton (Suitland) said that the board still wants to meet with Curry to work out the differences but that it can't get an appointment.

    "We aren't meeting anymore, not because I don't want to meet," Thornton said. "But you can't meet by yourself."

    On another subject, McGinty asked Curry whether he would endorse Glendening in the 1998 election. Curry would not answer.

    "I'm busy right now running the government," he said. "I don't want to be premature. . . . That sort of thing has to wait until the end of the session. I'm not going to do anything until the end of the legislative session."

    Staff writers Jackie Spinner and DeNeen L. Brown contributed to this article.

    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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