The beer was cold, but the crabs were hot today and so were Maryland's leading Democratic candidates for governor at the state's premier summer political gathering.
Baltimore Mayor William Donald Schaefer and state Attorney General Stephen H. Sachs, speaking to reporters at the J. Millard Tawes Annual Crab and Clam Bake, traded acrimonious insults, an increasingly frequent feature of their campaign.
"The mayor can't distinguish between an outhouse and the State House," charged Sachs.
"This is not unusual," Schaefer countered. "He calls me everything in the book."
That round of insults was triggered by a story today in the Baltimore Evening Sun. The newspaper used hyphens in quoting some of Schaefer's harsh and obscene remarks characterizing Sachs' stand on environmental issues.
"He's a bunch of s--- with the environment," the mayor said. "He really is s---. He doesn't know what the hell the environment is about.
Then in a voice that paper said was "heavy with sarcasm," it quoted the mayor as saying he hopes Sachs would win and "do all the things he says. The dumb a------. I hope he's tough on the environment and drives every g------- industry out of the state."
Schaefer maintained that his comments were off the record. "I'm not that stupid," the mayor said.
"I haven't called any names -- up until now," he said. "I got called a child, arrogant, senile."
Last Thursday, Sachs called Schaefer "a spoiled child" who would not play by the rules after he staged an impromptu appearance at a radio debate and then left before the program reached its halfway mark.
The two men did not exchange pleasantries at the Eastern Shore crabfest, even though their supporters had pitched tents close to each other.
"He's an embarrassment; he really is," said Sachs, as Schaefer shook hands and ate crabs about 50 feet away.
"With name-calling you get away from the real issues," Schaefer said as a small crowd gathered around him.
Most of the several thousand people at today's event concentrated on crabs and steamed corn; less on the dozen or so candidates for state and federal office who milled around the grounds.
Del. Daniel Long (D-Somerset) called the event "a local politician's delight." The event drew 3,800 and the top candidates of both parties.
All were upstaged by the fireworks between Sachs and Schaefer.
Sachs used the occasion to say that he was right when he suggested last year that Schaefer did not have the temperament to be governor.
"It's another example of his immeasurable arrogance," Sachs said. "Beyond that . . . it leads him to believe he can deliver that kind of talk and not be held accountable for it."