One of the dreariest elections inflicted on Maryland voters in recent years is over, and before we all plunge into the preliminaries for the year everyone has been waiting for -- 1986 -- it's time to award the highlight and lowlight prizes.
With apologies to my colleague David Broder, who does this so well on the national scene, here goes:
*The Best Campaigner award goes hands down to state Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein. Even on his bad days Louis can make the late Hubert H. Humprhey look like the grumpy warrior, and in 1984 Louis had a lot of good days. Sometimes dismissed as just a goofy character from Southern Maryland ("God bless you all real good," and all that), Louis really believes in all the old Democratic virtues. It came through this year as, with real passion, he tirelessly stumped for the national ticket.
*Robin Ficker wins the Worst Campaign Tactic award, and is likely to retire the prize forever if he runs for something in 1986. The former Montgomery County legislator got soundly beaten by Democratic Rep. Beverly B. Byron in the 6th District, and a contributing factor was his ad campaign. Running against a popular incumbent, the widow of the former representative, Ficker papered the 6th District with "Byron Scares Us" billboards.
*The Throw a Drowning Man an Anchor award goes to Gov. Harry Hughes. An early supporter of Walter F. Mondale, Hughes went to Japan in the final week of a close campaign in Maryland. For several days prior to departure, Hughes missed several Democratic "zip trips" because he had a cold. Said one longtime party activist: "If Paul Sarbanes or Barbara Mikulski had gone to Japan in the last week of a campaign, they would have been crucified."
*Helen Delich Bentley wins the If at First You Don't Succeed prize by knocking off Rep. Clarence D. Long on her third attempt. For the next two years, Bentley will have to sleep with one eye open, though, because Baltimore County Executive Donald P. Hutchinson began running on Nov. 7. "That will be a $2 million campaign," predicted one Maryland Republican.
*The Body's Not Even Cold Yet award goes to Maryland's Democratic Attorney General Stephen H. Sachs, who, on the morning after Mondale's defeat, was on the horn to his key supporters to tell them he's scheduled a major powwow in December to map strategy for his 1986 gubernatorial bid.
*The Hedging Your Bets award goes to Baltimore Mayor William D. Schaefer, who is not known for working up a sweat in behalf of other Democrats. Schaefer worked just enough for Mondale to avoid major criticism, but not energetically enough to jeopardize his city's place on the federal gravy train in the second Reagan administration.
Schaefer rode in the presidential car and appeared on the presidential podium when Reagan visited Little Italy, but he was genuinely angered when the president deep-sixed funds for dredging the Baltimore harbor the next day. Shortly thereafter, the mayor started working. But not too hard.
*Rep. Marjorie S. Holt, the 4th District Republican who was chairwoman of the Maryland Reagan-Bush campaign, wins the Earl Butz Memorial Award for Racial Harmony with her remarks to the editorial board of the Baltimore News-American in which she mimicked blacks half-heartedly seeking jobs. Holt is actually a double winner. For explaining the gaffe by contending that she was merely repeating congressional testimony of former Federal Reserve chairman Arthur F. Burns (who said it wasn't true), she wins the Ron Ziegler Candor Trophy.
*Holt's opponent, Democrat Howard Greenebaum, wins the Richard Nixon Media Relations prize, and the overall Best of Show award, for his astonishing stunt following his landslide loss on Nov. 6. Greenebaum, who earlier in his campaign had tried to get an Annapolis Capital reporter yanked from covering his race, marched into the Capital's office and plunked a cup full of donkey dung on the publisher's desk.
Apparently Greenebaum didn't like the way the Capital portrayed his hapless candidacy. Said Holt aide Michael W. Owen of the incident: "It would have been more appropriate if Mr. Greenebaum had deposited his excrement on the desk of the editor of the only newspaper that endorsed him, The Washington Post."