George Beall is young and articulate. He has one of the best known names in Maryland politics, and an unblemished record of public service.
But when he pulled out of the 1978 race for governor last week, it hardly created a ripple. Perhaps, it shouldn't have been surprising. The election, after all, is still 18 months away. And Beall, 39, never said he wanted to run anyway.
Besides, there was the matter of his brother, J. Glenn Beall, the former U. S. Senator, who has been making rumblings - without much reaction - that he'd like a shot at the race. Glenn Beall has been the poltician in the family since their father, also a U.S. Senator and Congressman, died.
What George Beall had to offer was a fresh face, and a reputation for integrity in a state where political integrity is in short supply. Strangely engough, there weren't many buyers among the movers and shakers in the state Republican Party. They all preferred to think of the younger Beall as a supporting character - a candidate for lieutenant governor or attorney general - in the 1978 race.
Ironically, his greatest strengths were also his greatest liabilities. He is best known as a member of a prominent Republican family and the U.S. District attorney who directed the investigation that led to Spiro T. Agnew's resignation as vice president.
This - along with the investigations he headed that led to the imprisonment of Baltimore County Executive Dale Anderson and Anne Arundel County Executive Joseph W. Alton Jr. - gave George Beall a national reputation as a fearless political big game hunter, a man willing to go after fellow Republicans as well as Democrats.
But it made him suspect among GOP regulars, particular among conservative Republicans who dominate the party structure in much of the state.The former Maryland governor's nolo contendre plea to charges of political bribery didn't bother them. Ted Agnew was simply their kind of guy.
Tbhe Beall name didn't help him much either, especially after last fall's election when Paul S. Sarbanes, a Baltimore Democrat, buried Glenn Beall in a landslide. The Beall name had lost its magic, if it ever had any. Putting up another Beall at the head of a statewide ticket would be a disaster, or so the theory went.
His brother's defeat left a heavy mark on George Beall, who managed the senator's campaign in baltimore, where Sarbanes piled up his larges majorities. "That was a significant lesson for me," the younger Beall said last week. "I could see the handwriting on the wall. The tea leaves have to be perfectly read for a Republican to succeed."
Beall also lacked the key ingredient to any successful campaign: hunger. "I don't have the desire, let alone the burning desire to be a candidate," he said, removing himself from consideration for any state office.
To be sure, the Republican nomination for governor, or any other state office isn't the most appealing political plum. Democrats outregistered Republicans by almost three to one in the state, and the party has an insane habit of fighting among itself.
For a Republican to win any statewide race, he must make deep inroads among Democratic and independent voters in the Washington, Baltimore and Annapolis suburbs while holding on to traditional GOP strongholds in Western Maryland. To do this, a divided and warring Democratic party is almost essential.
That's what the GOP is hanging its hopes on in 1978. It's banking that the more than half dozen Democrats jockeying for governor will leave the party hopelessly fractured, enabling a Republican to recapture the state house for the first time in nine years.
The party's official leadership would like all wings of the party to unite behind a single slate of candidates sometime within the next six months. The idea would be to avoid a messy primary and conserve meager campaign funds.
Currently only one candidate, a little known one term legislator from Harford County, John W. Hardwicke, is actively seeking the top slot on the ticket. But he is regarded as a long shot with little chance of success.
Far more likely gubernatorial candidates are Montgomery County Executive James Gleason, Anne Arundel County Executive Robert A. Pascal, and, to a much lesser extent, former Sen. Glenn Beall.
Pascal is currently the overwhelming frontrunner, although he's shied away from making any public pronouncement. He is a successful businessman and former All American football player, who managed Gerald Ford's unsuccessful effort in Maryland last fall.
His chief political advisor, Herman Itemann, said last week that Pascal is facing a busy month in May when he presents the county budget and he doesn't expect to see any overt moves toward the governorship before early June.
As for Pascal's current posture, Itemann said, "He's looking at himself in the mirror."
If he's like most politicians, he likes what he sees.