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  •   Glendening Signals Push for Social Change

    maryland governer
    Frances Anne Glendening and Gov. Parris Glendening listen as jazz singer Parris Lane sings the Battle Hymn of the Republic. (Larry Morris/The Washington Post)
    By Robert E. Pierre and Charles Babington
    Washington Post Staff Writers
    Thursday, January 21, 1999; Page A1

    Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening began his second term yesterday with the lofty goal of transforming Maryland into a state that one day would be free of discrimination, offering legal protections for gays and launching a "century of truly universal learning" to empower children of all races and economic backgrounds.

    On a drizzly, gray afternoon in Annapolis, surrounded by hundreds of friends and family members, Glendening (D) used his inaugural speech to signal that traditional liberal social issues would receive higher priority in his second term as governor than they did during his first four years in office.

    "We must become, truly and finally, one state and one people, with equality and justice for all," Glendening said from the State House steps. "This is an age-old dream, but it is far from the experience of our age. Yet now it is our necessity as well as our ideal."

    Today, Glendening will offer specific legislative proposals in the State of the State address and release his budget for the fiscal year that begins in July. He plans to pitch programs to reduce class size, hire more-qualified teachers, attract jobs and ensure that residents get the health care and medicine they need.

    Glendening has been a steadfast advocate of affirmative action and minority contracting goals throughout his 26-year political career. And during his 23-minute speech yesterday, the self-described "progressive" emphasized classic liberal themes: increased education spending and the need for environmental protections and organized labor. Citing his gay brother who died of AIDS, he made a poignant pitch to end discrimination against homosexuals.

    Making little or no mention yesterday of tax cuts, welfare reductions and job creation themes he hit in his reelection campaign Glendening narrowed his focus to social problems that almost surely would have received less emphasis had Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey won November's race. And for that, many Democrats are happy.

    "He feels liberated to work on the social issues that he cares about," said state Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, a Baltimore Democrat who chairs the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee. "He feels that in good times he has the obligation to right wrongs and bring all citizens of Maryland to the table."

    Glendening's second inauguration as Maryland's 59th governor marked a sweet ending to a bruising first term and the beginning of what he hopes will be a wholly different experience the second time around. Four years ago, the former Prince George's county executive won office by such a narrow margin that he was an easy target for lawmakers who felt they could oppose him with impunity.

    Because Glendening won reelection by a 10-percentage-point margin in November, he and lawmakers say he now has a greater mandate to implement his policies. Thus far, he is enjoying a honeymoon with state lawmakers. But the governor's effort to extend housing and employment protections to gay men and women will test his newfound authority.

    Conservative lawmakers are upset that Glendening seems to have abandoned, for now at least, the idea of accelerated tax cuts. One of the few state senators who braved the dreary weather to watch Glendening's speech in person was conservative freshman Alexander X. Mooney (R-Frederick). Mooney noted that the governor made no hint of possible tax cuts, despite raising the topic during his reelection campaign.

    "My concern is that he's not talking about what he campaigned on," Mooney said.

    As for Glendening's gay rights proposal, Mooney said he would await the details but generally feels sexual orientation should not be given the same protections as race. "You're born with a skin color," he said, but it's unclear whether sexual orientation is determined at birth.

    Del. Sharon Grosfeld (D-Montgomery) said she was thrilled to hear Glendening speak out against discrimination aimed at gay men and women. For years, she has sponsored a bill to do just that, but each year, it died in committee. This year, the measure has two powerful new advocates: House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. (D-Allegany) and Glendening.

    "When the governor takes a more controversial stand, it sends an even stronger message about the importance of the issue," Grosfeld said. Antidiscrimination laws sometimes can reduce bigotry, she said.

    "Historically, we've seen legislation pass quicker than people's attitudes have changed," Grosfeld said.

    Calling his tenure "the education administration," Glendening noted that thousands of classrooms have been built and standardized test scores have risen since he took office. In his second term, Glendening said, "we will build more, invest more, do more to raise standards, expect more in our classrooms and make teaching a more rewarding and honored profession." He pledged to make Maryland "a high-tech center for the world."

    Improving education is costly, said Glendening, who has proposed free college tuition for all students who maintain a B average or better. "The cost of ignorance is far greater," he said yesterday.

    Even Democrats acknowledged that Glendening has staked out a tough legislative agenda, especially in the area of gay rights and a proposed cigarette tax increase.

    "He's decided to take on some controversial issues," said Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke (D), who supported a Democratic rival in last summer's primary election but empathized with Glendening yesterday. "It's going to be tough. I hope he has the votes for his initiatives so it won't become too divisive."

    In addition to pushing policies that were given less priority in his first term, Glendening also has undergone a personal transition, aides said. While reluctant to speak about his family during much of his career, Glendening now frequently relates the story of his brother's homosexuality and the travails of growing up poor in South Florida.

    "He's different now. He doesn't have to worry about being reelected," said one top adviser. "He feels he's less vulnerable."

    During the campaign, Glendening attacked Sauerbrey as an opponent of civil rights legislation. Some Republicans accused him of race baiting, but Glendening was truly concerned about the issue, the adviser said.

    "The fact the issue in the campaign drove so many people to the polls is clearly driving it now," the adviser said. Glendening might have spoken more forcefully for gay rights during the campaign, the aide said, but "he didn't feel it was mainstream enough."

    Richard D. Bennett, Sauerbrey's running mate and chairman of the Maryland Republican Party, said Glendening's call for inclusiveness is "healthy." But he's wary of Glendening leading the discussion.

    "I think it's good once the election is over to try to include everyone," Bennett said. "But any such discussion is made very difficult if one has conducted a divisive campaign."

    Major F. Riddick Jr., Glendening's longtime chief of staff, said that his boss has always been a strong proponent of inclusion and that the reelection boosted his resolve to become a public advocate. "That's always where his heart's been," Riddick said.

    The day's pomp was dampened when leaden skies let loose intermittent drizzle, creating a carbon copy of Glendening's inauguration day four years ago. Glendening supporters, parade participants and others shivered beneath raincoats and umbrellas during the 90-minute ceremony. Others simply retreated to nearby buildings to watch it on television.

    A heated tent protected the governor, Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (D) and other dignitaries, several of whom spoke from a podium just out of the rain's reach.

    Former governor Harry R. Hughes told the crowd, "I hope it stopped raining out there. It's dry up here."

    That prompted some friendly catcalls, to which Hughes shrugged and said, "Well, I don't have to run anymore."

    In his introductions, Glendening cited an empty chair with a rose. Just as he did in 1995, he said the rose was in memory of his wife's deceased parents.

    Unlike the 1995 speech, however, Glendening made no mention of his own late parents, with whom he had strained relations. Instead, he cited his brother Bruce, a gay military veteran who died of AIDS in 1992.

    Glendening hugged and kissed his wife, Frances Anne Glendening, and hugged their son, Raymond. He then called to the podium Frank "Jerry" Church, of Florida, the step-grandfather who was close to Glendening as a child.

    Church told reporters later, "I started to cry a time or two." Citing Glendening's childhood poverty and difficult mother, Church said, "From where he came from, it's a miracle he ever made it."

    © Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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