Schmoke Dumps Glendening for Rehrmann
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, April 18, 1998; Page A01
Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, increasingly disillusioned with Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening over gambling and other issues, has decided to endorse one of the governor's rivals for the Democratic nomination for governor, sources close to both men said yesterday.
Tuesday's scheduled endorsement could seriously exacerbate problems for Glendening, who consistently has failed to win high approval ratings from constituents. With the prospect of a rematch against Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey in the November general election, the governor had hoped to avoid a tough primary battle in September that could sap resources and batter his image.
Schmoke (D), whose 1994 endorsement of Glendening helped boost the former Prince George's County executive into the governor's chair, has told at least two associates that he will endorse Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann at a Tuesday rally in front of Baltimore City Hall. Other sources, including aides to Glendening, said yesterday that the governor has resigned himself to such an event.
Schmoke, whose city is overwhelmingly Democratic, once was among Glendening's most prominent and influential supporters. But he began distancing himself after the two men offered conflicting versions of a private conversation in the governor's office in July 1996. Schmoke said Glendening promised to support legalized slot machines to generate revenue for city schools; Glendening said he made no such statement.
Schmoke has often complained that his veracity was questioned. Associates say he is angry about other issues as well, including Glendening's failure to bring about sharply lower auto insurance rates in Baltimore.
Glendening advisers, meanwhile, say Schmoke is unduly influenced by his political adviser, Larry Gibson, who is Rehrmann's campaign manager. Gibson also does work for state horse racing tracks, which want approval for slot machines. While Glendening opposes slots, Rehrmann has left the door open. She has invited horse interests to her announcement Tuesday.
Several top Maryland politicians expressed astonishment at Schmoke's move, saying Glendening has gone out of his way to help the city, often at his own political expense in his Washington suburban base. Glendening exhausted much political capital on securing legislative support for a state-financed, $220 million professional football stadium in Baltimore and a $254 million, five-year school aid package for the city.
"It's just truly amazing," said state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Prince George's). "The governor has been very good to Baltimore City. . . . To turn your back on somebody who brought you to the dance is a mistake on the part of Mayor Schmoke."
Miller, who has endorsed Glendening, said Schmoke's actions might help elect Sauerbrey. Should Glendening prevail, however, "he's going to remember and consider this a major betrayal. It's embarrassing."
Glendening campaign manager Tim Phillips said the governor has greatly helped Baltimore and all of the state. "The governor has a long record of paying attention to urban issues and African American issues," he said. Schmoke and Gibson are black.
"It's all about Larry Gibson, who controls the mayor," Phillips said. "It makes no sense whatsoever. I think a lot of people in Baltimore County and statewide will be outraged by this as well."
Schmoke was out of town yesterday and his mayoral office referred calls to Gibson. Told that the governor's supporters are braced for a Schmoke endorsement of Rehrmann, Gibson said: "I don't think they're on the wrong track."
Gibson said Glendening has caused his own problems, and Schmoke should not be faulted for abandoning the governor.
"Sometimes you go down with a sinking ship," Gibson said, "but you're not inclined to when the captain has been shooting holes in the bottom of the boat."
Rehrmann, who is generally well regarded in her county northeast of Baltimore but little known elsewhere, would not give details of her Tuesday noon rally in Baltimore.
It's unclear how much Schmoke could help Rehrmann, or hurt Glendening, in Baltimore. Glendening has the support of most of the city's senators and has always been relatively popular in Baltimore, compared to the rest of the state. Schmoke's own political star in the city has also declined in recent years.
"The real question is how many votes can Schmoke deliver," said Matthew Crenson, a political scientist at Johns Hopkins University. "At this point, I don't think he can deliver the city."
Rehrmann's campaign rally isn't the only bit of bad news for Glendening next week. Another Democratic challenger, former Washington Redskins player Ray Schoenke, will begin airing two 30-second commercials on Baltimore television stations.
The ads criticize Glendening without using his name. One says it is "time for saying no to politicians who squander our money on bad stadium deals, who wink at ethics, who sell out for contributions."
Schoenke and other critics say Glendening devoted too much public money to new football stadiums in Baltimore and Prince George's County and has been too aggressive in raising campaign money. Davidsonville physician Terry McGuire also is seeking the Democratic nomination.
One remaining wild card in the political situation is the plans of Prince George's County Executive Wayne K. Curry (D), who is close to Gibson and has made little secret of his disenchantment with Glendening. Gibson said Curry is not expected at Tuesday's Baltimore rally, and Curry's staff did not return phone calls seeking comment yesterday.
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