Glendening Won't Attend Clinton Visit
and Donald P. Baker
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, September 5, 1998; Page B1
Gov. Parris N. Glendening has decided to skip President Clinton's first visit to Maryland since Clinton acknowledged having a sexual relationship with Monica S. Lewinsky.
Glendening (D), seeking reelection this fall, said he will send his lieutenant governor to Clinton's appearance at a Silver Spring school on Tuesday so that he can keep his earlier commitment to attend an African American festival in Baltimore County.
Aides said the governor's absence should not be seen as a slap to the president, who is under fire from some leaders of his own party. If Glendening really wanted to distance himself from Clinton, they said, he would not send Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.
"The governor felt the administration can be represented at both events," press secretary Ray Feldmann said. "I believe this is strictly a scheduling conflict."
Privately, however, some Glendening advisers say they fear Clinton's problems may dampen Democratic voters' enthusiasm this fall and energize backers of Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey, who nearly defeated Glendening four years ago.
Moreover, Glendening's camp showed indecision for hours yesterday about whether the governor would join the president. U.S. Rep. Albert R. Wynn (D-Md.), organizer of the "school modernization day" at Pine Crest Elementary School, first announced that Glendening would attend, based on statements from a Glendening aide. The governor later issued a statement saying he could not make it, after aides said he tried in vain to arrange to be at both the presidential visit and the festival.
Glendening's decision came as a surprise to staff members at the White House, who had planned to give the governor a role in Tuesday's program. A White House political aide said, however, that the president's staff did not take offense and accepted Glendening's explanation.
Before the Lewinsky scandal broke, Glendening eagerly linked himself with Clinton, often telling associates that he shares the president's knack for bouncing back from political difficulties. Of Clinton's last seven public events in Maryland, Glendening has attended five. When Clinton visited Annapolis in February 1997, Glendening stuck by his side during a heavily photographed lunch stop and shopping trip.
Even after Clinton's televised confession last month to an "inappropriate" relationship with Lewinsky, Glendening said there was no reason to reconsider his plans to have Clinton host a fund-raiser for him.
"On the one hand, his actions were wrong," Glendening said in a recent interview with The Washington Post. "He said that. Perhaps he could have said it more forcefully. . . . But the country is doing exceptionally well. We're at peace. The economy is doing well. He's dealing with the issues we ought to be dealing with. As president, he has been absolutely great."
Still, many Maryland Democrats are nervous about the impact the Lewinsky scandal might have on their electoral fortunes this fall. Some Maryland candidates already are encountering anti-Clinton sentiments, even in reliably Democratic precincts.
Douglas F. Gansler, who said he has knocked on 15,000 doors in his campaign to win the Democratic nomination for state's attorney in Montgomery County, said reaction to the president has been "universally negative. I haven't seen one person who has said, 'I support the president and hope he overcomes.' "
Glendening was not the only prominent Maryland Democrat weighing how to handle Clinton's visit. Aides said it was unclear whether Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) will attend the event, which is in his own county.
"I know he has said privately that he is disappointed in the president's behavior," said David Weaver, Duncan's spokesman. "He's glad the president has spoken publicly, but he is still waiting for a fuller account of what happened."
Several Democratic legislators, however, said they hope to attend Tuesday's event with Clinton.
"I have no problem sharing the stage with him," said Sen. Ida G. Ruben (D), whose district includes Pine Crest Elementary. "He is the president of the United States, and I respect that office." She said that while "some people are unhappy with what has transpired, there are as many unhappy about how long this has been going on."
Del. Peter Franchot, one of three House members from the district, all of whom are Democrats, said he's "looking forward" to standing with the president. "He has been terrific for education."
Franchot said he has not encountered anti-Clinton sentiment on the campaign trail but rather had a call from a constituent who "was upset with Sen. [Joseph I.] Lieberman for attacking him."
Del. Dana Lee Dembrow, who also represents the Silver Spring district, said he will attend the event "because he is the president of the United States and, despite his human frailties, which are significant, I have enormous respect for every person who holds that very high office."
But Dembrow said: "Certainly there are a lot of voters who are disgusted with: A, his conduct, and B, his credibility. This is a very serious thing when it comes from the titular head of our national party. It's a permanent smear on the legacy of a great president. . . . A lot of us are disappointed."
On another election front, Maryland state candidates yesterday filed their final campaign finance reports before the Sept. 15 primary. Glendening continues to lead his likely Republican rival, Sauerbrey, in overall fund-raising, but Sauerbrey again surpassed the incumbent governor in collecting money over the most recent reporting period, covering the final 19 days of August.
Glendening and Townsend have raised $4.1 million this campaign cycle and would head into the general election season with $2.01 million in the bank. They collected $238,297 in the period.
Sauerbrey and running mate Richard Bennett, breaking fund-raising records for Maryland Republicans, have collected $3.2 million this election cycle. Over the most recent reporting period, the campaign collected $259,823 and will have $1.4 million to spend in the fall campaign if Sauerbrey defeats Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker in the primary.
Ecker lent his campaign $200,000 on Aug. 24 on the heels of a strong endorsement from the Baltimore Sun. He said he will buy television advertising during the campaign's final 10 days.
Staff writers John F. Harris and Scott Wilson contributed to this report.
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company