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  •   At Age 85, Comptroller Runs Again

    Comptroller Louis Goldstein
    State Comptroller Louis Goldstein (Michael Williamson/TWP)
    By Lyndsey Layton
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Wednesday, June 24 1998; Page B05

    The oldest and longest-running political show in Maryland history appears ready to run for another four years.

    Maryland Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein today formally announced his campaign for an unprecedented 11th term in office. The 85-year-old Goldstein has already held statewide office longer than any other elected official in Maryland history and possibly in the country.

    "I feel as good today as when I went into the Marine Corps at 29," said Goldstein, who did an impromptu round of leg lifts in his slate-gray business suit to show off his fitness. "I don't smoke, I don't drink, I don't run around with anybody's wife or girlfriends. And I've got the enthusiasm, the spirit to help people."

    Like Madonna or Cher, Goldstein is known in parts of the state simply as "Louie," no last name required. In an informal survey of voters in downtown Baltimore today, seven of 10 recognized his name.

    "Hasn't he been the comptroller for, like, 100 years?" asked Lisa Tapp, a 36-year-old medical secretary. "If he's up to it, if he has the guts to do it again, then I say let him try."

    Goldstein made his announcement in the noon sun outside state offices in Baltimore before a small crowd. His white hair neatly combed back, Goldstein rattled off his accomplishments and punched the air for emphasis with a hand spotted purple with age.

    Maryland is in fine fiscal shape, with a AAA bond rating, Goldstein said. He said he would continue to use technology to deliver more efficient service. Next April, he said, taxpayers will be able to file income tax returns from personal computers.

    He ended his speech with his trademark slogan, "May God love and bless you all real good," a saying that's embossed on gold-colored coins he always carries and gives away to anyone who comes near. Today, even the news photographers were collecting their coins.

    Four years ago, Goldstein said he would retire at the end of the current term. But just before his wife, Hazel, died in 1996, she urged Goldstein to stay in politics. "She said to me, `I want you to stay busy.' " Goldstein said.

    And politics keeps him busy. Goldstein's routine schedule is jammed with so many receptions, breakfasts and tours that he is constantly meeting voters from across the state. Tonight, it was dinner with friends at an Annapolis steakhouse. Wednesday, it's a speech before the state chapter of the National Association of Postmasters in Ocean City. He warns anyone who wants to accompany him to wear comfortable shoes. Goldstein starts his days with an hour dip in his pool in Prince Frederick or a two- to five-mile walk around his beloved Calvert County, where it is difficult to find a state building or state road without a plaque honoring Goldstein.

    "He's just a legend," said Del Ali, senior vice president of Mason-Dixon Political/Media Research in Columbia. "It's the Strom Thurmond phenomenon. There are certain people that are anointed by the electorate, and as long as he still wants to run, they still feel he can have the job."

    Goldstein is unchallenged in the Democratic primary but will face Republican Tim Mayberry of Boonsboro in November for the $100,000-a-year job. This will be a rematch of the 1994 race, when Goldstein beat Mayberry, a 42-year-old financial consultant, with 61 percent of the vote to Mayberry's 39 percent.

    Goldstein is no stranger to rough campaigning. James Moorehead, a Democratic rival in 1994, accused Goldstein of using his office to profit from a Calvert County land deal in 1984 and of failing to hire women and minorities -- charges Goldstein denied.

    Mayberry's campaign will be more gentle, said Dee Richards, a spokeswoman for Mayberry. "We have no desire to do anything negative to Louie," she said, adding that Mayberry wants Goldstein to become "Maryland's ambassador of good will."

    Some voters may agree. "He's been there long enough," said Tamira Scott, a 25-year-old paramedic from Baltimore. "I'm not trying to take away from him or be mean. But everybody has their limit."

    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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