Schaefer Files for Comptroller's Race
By Daniel LeDuc
Gov. Parris N. Glendening yesterday named former congressman Michael D. Barnes as Maryland's new comptroller, but his efforts to bring order to a chaotic political situation received a last-minute jolt when former governor William Donald Schaefer said he wanted the job.
Glendening (D) named Barnes, his longtime ally from Montgomery County, to fill out the last six months of Louis L. Goldstein's four-year term. Goldstein, 85, a legendary Maryland political figure who held the comptroller's job for four decades, died Friday night, sparking a last-minute scramble for the job by nearly 20 candidates.
Barnes, 54, who now serves as chairman of Glendening's reelection efforts, also filed to run for a full four-year term. With his appointment, the governor hoped to anoint a virtual front-runner for the September Democratic primary, bolster his base in vote-rich Montgomery County and gain a reliable ally on the powerful three-person Board of Public Works.
But a frenzied final filing day for Maryland's political candidates appeared to scramble these calculations, as Schaefer arrived in Annapolis 90 minutes before the 9 p.m. deadline and declared himself a candidate for comptroller.
Schaefer, the colorful former Baltimore mayor who is perhaps the best-known politician in Maryland, said he would redefine the state tax collector's job to foster economic development, improve school construction and forge a better relationship between Baltimore and the Washington suburbs. He said he might still back out of the race in 10 days -- as the law permits -- but added that he had to act because of the filing deadline.
"I've got 10 days to think about what I'm going to do," said Schaefer, 76.
The last-minute brokering capped a wild day that began with Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) turning down Glendening's offer to name him comptroller, citing family considerations and his desire to continue his agenda for the county.
Before the day was out, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ray Schoenke dropped out of the race; expelled senator Larry Young said he would not try to regain his Baltimore seat; Republican gubernatorial hopeful Charles I. Ecker named a running mate -- and Schaefer offered his dramatic finale.
"This is an El Niño year in Maryland politics," said Herb Smith, chairman of the political science department at Western Maryland College. "This is extraordinary. This is unprecedented; it really is."
The focus of much of yesterday's political maneuvering was the race for comptroller, a powerful position that oversees tax collecting and bill-paying while participating in major contracting decisions. Nineteen candidates, Republicans and Democrats alike, filed to run for a seat that few thought was possible to win only three days ago.
Among the Democrats entering the race were Mary Pat Clarke, a former Baltimore City Council chairman and former mayoral candidate; former state senator Julian L. Lapides; and Baltimore Comptroller Joan M. Pratt.
Some Republicans were buoyed by the last-minute filing of Prince George's County GOP Chairman Michael Steele, who had been considered for lieutenant governor by the leading GOP gubernatorial contender, Ellen R. Sauerbrey. Other Republicans included Jeffrey C. Hooke, of Chevy Chase, the director of a private investment firm, and Larry M. Epstein, an Owings Mills accountant who ran against Goldstein in 1990.
The mad dash to file in Annapolis was the public conclusion to a weekend of behind-the-scenes political calculating and negotiating by Maryland's political establishment, much of which will gather in Calvert County this morning for Goldstein's funeral.
Glendening reached out to several Democrats, hoping to find the strongest candidate and unify the party behind that person. Last night, it remained unclear how successful the effort would be, as Glendening came under criticism not only from Republicans but also from some Baltimore Democrats who were worried about the selection of another top state official from the Washington suburbs. Glendening comes from Prince George's County, and some Democrats said they believe Barnes's selection spurred Schaefer to enter the race to protect Baltimore's interests.
The governor said he spent yesterday focused on a short list that included Barnes, Duncan and U.S. Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-3rd District), who indicated he wasn't interested.
Duncan spoke with Glendening three times Sunday evening, the last call after 11 p.m., and yesterday morning, he told the governor he would not take the job. Meanwhile, elected officials gathered in Annapolis for Goldstein's casket to arrive at the State House, where it lay in state all day.
At a brief meeting at the governor's residence, Glendening sought the advice of U.S. Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski and Paul S. Sarbanes, Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (Prince George's), House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. (Allegany), Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (5th District) and Baltimore County Executive C.A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger.
By mid-morning, after Duncan had declined the offer, Glendening shifted his attention to Barnes. Sources familiar with his decision said the governor was seeking someone who understood government and was compatible with his administration, especially as the campaign heats up.
Barnes, though not as well known as Duncan or some of the other candidates considered for the appointment, is respected in the Democratic Party, has a base of supporters in Montgomery County and is expected by party officials to prove an able fund-raiser.
"Politically, it's a smart choice for Glendening," said Brad Coker, president of Mason-Dixon Political/Media Research.
In selecting his campaign chairman for the comptroller's job, however, Glendening also opened himself to complaints of cronyism from Republicans and from his Democratic primary opponent, Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann. State GOP Chairman Joyce Lyons Terhes said Glendening had not sought the best candidate but was only "looking out for what's best for Parris Glendening."
Duncan, appearing at the news conference with Glendening, lauded Barnes's appointment. "He is viewed as a statesman, somebody above the fray, somebody above it all," he said.
Glendening said that Barnes, who lives in Kensington, would resign as the governor's campaign chairman and that he would announce a replacement soon.
In selecting Barnes, Glendening decided not to appoint his Democratic challenger, Rehrmann. She had previously expressed an interest in the job but decided not to challenge the formidable Goldstein.
Some Glendening advisers were concerned that appointing Rehrmann would have opened Glendening to criticism that he was simply trying to eliminate an opponent in the Democratic primary. Rehrmann said yesterday that she is in the governor's race to stay.
In response to reporters' questions about the propriety of appointing his campaign chairman, Glendening said that Barnes was qualified for the job and that he did not want to appear to be "using the appointment to try to remove people from competition in the governor's race."
Said Barnes, "I don't think you would have expected him to select someone who was not a supporter to be part of his team."
Barnes has not held office since 1986, when he left the House to make an unsuccessful run for U.S. Senate. He expressed a fascination with the comptroller's job and an enthusiasm to return to campaigning.
"It got my adrenaline flowing returning to the fray," he said.
Still, even some Democrats expressed concern about the selection.
Del. Howard P. Rawlings (D-Baltimore), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said he was troubled by the choice of Barnes, especially because he is from Montgomery County, which led the charge against a special state appropriation for Baltimore schools last year.
"I think this is going to stack the power in the state toward the Washington suburbs," said Rawlings, who pushed for Rehrmann. "I'm not aware that Mike Barnes has the appreciation of the state's AAA bond rating and how important it is. Barnes' reputation is that of a politician, not of a fiscal conservative."
Meanwhile, Schaefer said his filing for comptroller should have no effect on his improving relationship with Glendening, whom he recently endorsed. "He picked his person, and I'll have to see about what happens with his person," he said.
Since leaving office four years ago, Schaefer has remained active in civic affairs, lecturing at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland, but he has occasionally appeared to friends somewhat bored in his retirement from office. Schaefer acknowledged that he has been to the pinnacle of state electoral politics, but he said he decided to enter the fray again because he thinks he may have something to contribute.
He said he does not intend to campaign "day and night" like Goldstein, but he was clearly having fun yesterday. For the little more than half an hour that it took him to file his papers and talk to reporters, "Willie Don" was back in Annapolis, shaking hands, posing for pictures with children and being coy with the media.
If there was any anger at Schaefer's filing, Glendening's aides did not reveal it. "If William Donald Schaefer wants to enter this race, he's certainly more than entitled to do that," said press secretary Ray Feldmann. "That's what the democratic process is all about."
At the county levels, there was less excitement as the filing deadlines arrived. In Montgomery County, there were no major filings as of 6 p.m. in any of the major races. All eight Democrats who were expected to run for the four at-large seats on the County Council had filed by yesterday afternoon.
Eight of the nine Prince George's County Council members are running for reelection. Two of the races have turned into heated rematches of tight 1994 primary runs. Two-term incumbent Marvin F. Wilson (D-Glenarden) is defending his seat against challenger Theresa Mitchell Dudley, a Democratic activist and vocal opponent of the new Washington Redskins stadium. Council member Walter H. Maloney (D-Beltsville) faces former opponent Reginald A. Parks, a spokesman for County Executive Wayne K. Curry and a former council member who lost his seat to Maloney in a narrow 1994 primary race.
Staff writers Amy Argetsinger, Manuel Perez-Rivas, Jackie Spinner and Scott Wilson contributed to this report.
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