Baltimore Mayor William Donald Schaefer, while continuing to avoid any official announcement concerning his political future, told several elected officials from around the state here today that there is "no question" in his mind that he will run for governor of Maryland in 1986.
Speaking to more than 500 delegates at the annual summer convention of the Maryland Municipal League, Schaefer spoke at length on the importance of state-municipal cooperation but made no direct mention of his political plans.
However, as elected officials from several of the state's towns and cities approached him after his speech to ask him whether he will run for governor, he confirmed to each of them that that is what he plans to do.
"I'm ready when you are, Mayor," Greenbelt council member Richard R. Pilski told Schaefer as he grasped his hand and pumped it.
"I'm going [to run], no question about it," Schaefer replied, returning Pilski's firm grip. Earlier, when approached by a reporter, he had been a bit more coy. "I'm telling everybody else," he said. "But I can't tell the press."
When Schaefer, 63, formally joins the increasingly hectic Democratic race for governor, his most formidable opponent for his party's nomination is likely to be Maryland Attorney General Stephen H. Sachs, whose campaign is already under way.
Speaker of the House Benjamin L. Cardin and Landover lawyer Peter F. O'Malley also have said they would like to run for governor. Cardin has been raising money toward that end; O'Malley has said he will not run if Schaefer does.
Schaefer's supporters and detractors note that the mayor's name recognition undoubtedly will aid him in a statewide race. "Boy, if there's somebody in this state who doesn't need an introduction, it's Don Schaefer," league president Lloyd Helt Jr., the mayor of the Carroll County community of Sykesville, told the group.
In his address today, Schaefer praised everything in the state from Pocomoke City clam chowder to Frederick County volunteers. Not surprisingly, he stressed Baltimore's role in the state's well-being.
"A strong Baltimore, I firmly believe, is a strong Maryland," he said. "You can't have one without the other."
Schaefer, who is in his fourth four-year term as mayor of Baltimore, is credited with the revitalization of that city's Inner Harbor and its downtown commercial strip on Howard Street.
Schaefer was greeted warmly by most of those in the statewide audience. Joseph Horan, a council member from the Prince George's municipality of Edmonston, told Schaefer that he had committed himself to Sachs but is willing to support Schaefer whenever he gets in the race.
Some elected officials, however, chose to ignore Schaefer entirely. Prince George's council member Richard J. Castaldi, a Sachs supporter, stayed for the luncheon but left to go out onto the hotel beach shortly before Schaefer was to speak.
Helt acknowledged that Schaefer's speech sounded suspiciously like a dry run campaign address. "Thank you, Don," Helt said after Schaefer sat down. "And I do look forward to your announcement."
Laurel Mayor Robert DiPietro, a Schaefer supporter, said that nearly 70 percent of the delegates at last year's Municipal League convention signed a petition urging Schaefer to run for governor. "We are all strong believers, because he does what he says he will do," DiPietro said.
Schaefer said that he will make a formal announcement of his candidacy "very late" in the year. "I've got time," he said.