Schaefer's Old Gang Rallies in Baltimore
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 14, 1998; Page B01
BALTIMORE, July 13Maryland's most colorful political star, William Donald Schaefer, was joined today by hundreds of supporting players who seemed thrilled to see him back before the footlights.
More than 400 of them pulled themselves out of bed for a 7:30 a.m. rally at a Best Western Hotel along Interstate 95 here to officially kick off Schaefer's unexpected campaign for state comptroller. Many had not seen each other since the former governor left office nearly four years ago, and they were almost as excited to see each other as they were to see him.
"This is like a reunion," said Silver Spring general contractor Blase Cooke, as he pushed through the crowd noshing on pastries. "People were calling, saying, 'The boys are back in the game.' Everybody was giddy."
John Paterakis Sr., Baltimore's bakery baron and a longtime Schaefer contributor, surveyed the crowd and said: "I didn't know they were all still living. There's a lot of people here who haven't seen each other since he's been out. It's like old-times week."
It's been four long years for many of these people, many of whom saw their love of politics go into hibernation when Schaefer (D) left Annapolis after two terms as governor. Many are part of the Baltimore business and legal elite, who never did get entirely comfortable with the idea of a governor from the Washington suburbs -- Parris N. Glendening (D).
"There are people I haven't seen the last 1,200 days since I've been in public office. Some are a little grayer," Schaefer said. "I'm sort of overwhelmed."
The enduring cachet of the old Schaefer crowd became evident when the ex-governor entered the comptroller's race 90 minutes before the filing deadline on July 6. The nearly instantaneous momentum behind his candidacy last week forced Glendening's handpicked choice for the job to withdraw. Other leading candidates also withdrew in deference to Schaefer, leaving Baltimore Comptroller Joan M. Pratt as the only other Democrat with some following in the race.
At 76, Schaefer has cited boredom as one of the reasons for his return to public life, and some of his old friends gathered here today professed to be worried about him. "He was such a fish out of water -- more than most people," said state Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman (D-Baltimore). "He never married. He doesn't have a lot of interests. He's devoted his life to doing this."
Many of those here today said they've also been bored these last four years, and they seemed filled with a new zest, not just for Schaefer, but for themselves.
"I think they've been disappointed in the direction of the governor's office. This brings stability and focus in political life," said Henry A. Rosenberg Jr., chairman of Crown Central Petroleum Corp. "It's like a homecoming."
At the center of it all was Schaefer, the pol and the showman, wearing a cap that said, "I am a Donald Schaefer Supporter and Damn Proud of It" and a button that said, "Vote for Youth."
As he stood to face the crowd, a half-dozen photographers pressing lenses toward his face, and newspaper reporters from as far as Los Angeles writing his words, he said: "I thought I better take the button off, the funny hat off. . . . Then, I thought, 'If I take the button off and the funny hat off, it wouldn't be me.' "
Despite a long chill between the two of them, Schaefer has endorsed Glendening, and the governor says he will run with his predecessor in the primary. That may be, but Glendening was not on the dais today; instead, he sat with Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (D) in the front row.
Many of Schaefer's most vocal supporters are backing Glendening's primary challenger, Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann. She did not appear, but former delegate Timothy F. Maloney, a longtime Glendening foe who introduced Schaefer, told the crowd that he had recently seen Schaefer, Maryland Treasurer Richard N. Dixon and Rehrmann chatting together.
"I thought, 'That's a good-looking Board of Public Works,' " Maloney said to a mix of chuckles and groans.
When the rally ended and the crowd departed, Schaefer lingered at a table littered with coffee cups and bagels and gathered a dozen of his closest advisers. Like a theater company, they reviewed the day's show. "Everything went just right; the speeches were short and very nice," Schaefer said. Then they made their plans to take it on the road.
"Where are the signs?" Schaefer asked, looking around and spotting just one banner with his name on it. "Get the signs, and we'll worry about paying for them later."
The group settled on Aug. 26 for a fund-raiser and discussed getting tickets printed. "Make sure they're union printers," Paterakis said. "Absolutely," agreed Schaefer.
"I need a scheduler," Schaefer continued, the words tumbling out. "A campaign manager, a day-to-day media person, an honorary board, volunteers. All that kind of stuff."
And he needed something else: Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a Kodak camera. "I need somebody to take a picture," he said. A news photographer standing nearby obliged.
Schaefer and his fellow players faced the camera and smiled: The boys were back in the game.
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company