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  •   Schoenke Abandons Md. Governor's Race

    Schoenke announced his withdrawal outside the State House.
    Schoenke announced his withdrawal in Annapolis. (AP Photo)
    By Robert E. Pierre
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Tuesday, July 7, 1998; Page A05

    Former Washington Redskins football player Ray Schoenke, who spent $2 million of his own money in a fledgling attempt to become Maryland governor, quit the race yesterday after concluding he could not win the Democratic nomination.

    Schoenke, 56, entered the race six months ago, hoping to capitalize on what he believed was a tide of resentment against Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D). But a flurry of his television ads in Baltimore and Washington did little to lift Schoenke in the polls, and he expressed concern that his candidacy would only help the governor's main GOP opponent, Ellen R. Sauerbrey.

    "These are good times," Schoenke said at a news conference in Annapolis. "[Voters] were satisfied with the governor. We accept that reality. I have no desire to splinter the party. . . . I'm withdrawing to preserve the Democratic Party and ensure that we have a Democratic governor in Annapolis."

    Schoenke's departure leaves Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann (D) as the only major Democratic challenger to Glendening. Some prominent Democrats had urged Rehrmann to abandon the governor's race and seek the Democratic nomination to succeed the late Louis L. Goldstein as Maryland comptroller, but she rejected those entreaties.

    Rehrmann also dismissed Schoenke's plea yesterday to help unify the Democratic Party by ending her effort to oust Glendening.

    "I fight for what I believe in," Rehrmann said, reiterating her contention that she is the Democrats' best chance for retaining the governor's seat. "We've got a governor that people just don't trust."

    Glendening, in a statement, praised Schoenke as a "great fighter" and "a fine human being" and thanked him for striking the unifying theme. But some political observers said that Schoenke's endorsement of Glendening rang a bit hollow, given his strident criticism of the governor in recent months.

    Throughout his short campaign, Schoenke repeatedly said that Glendening should be ousted because he lacks leadership and personal integrity. In an interview with The Washington Post last month, he charged that Glendening "puts political advantages ahead of the interests of the people."

    Schoenke, who recently sold his insurance company in Gaithersburg, did not retract any of his earlier criticisms of Glendening yesterday. But he maintained that continued infighting among Democrats might lead to Sauerbrey's election.

    "I will not let my candidacy be responsible for putting Ellen Sauerbrey and her extremist policies in the State House," Schoenke said.

    Del Ali, senior vice president of Mason-Dixon Political/Media Research, said Schoenke's move seemed peculiar. "It's almost like his message was disingenuous in a way," Ali said. "It would have made more sense if he would have endorsed Rehrmann."

    Ali said that the millions of dollars Schoenke spent on television advertising and slick brochures were not all wasted. He said the former Redskin has raised his profile in state politics – possibly enough to run for office again or become a player in other races.

    Schoenke said yesterday that he would not seek any other elected office this year, but he said his public service has just begun.

    As Schoenke was leaving the governor's race, Republican gubernatorial candidate Charles I. Ecker reaffirmed his commitment to stay in, despite a recent poll showing that he trails Sauerbrey by more than 50 percentage points. Ecker yesterday named Barbara J. Windsor, a Frederick County business executive, as his running mate with the hopes that her private-sector experience will appeal to voters calling for more efficient government.

    Windsor is executive vice president of Hahn Transportation, a New Market trucking company founded by her grandfather. She has never held elected office and is virtually unknown in Maryland politics. Ecker, a two-term Howard County executive, had a difficult time finding a running mate, at a time when party activists and even some of his closest friends have urged him to drop out of the race and support Sauerbrey.

    Staff writer Scott Wilson contributed to this report.

    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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