ANNAPOLIS, JULY 14 -- What began with some fanfare Monday night as a strategy session aboard the governor's yacht to promote a favorite son candidate from Maryland in the 1988 presidential election turned out to be more of a pleasure cruise for a select group of state politicians.
Gov. William Donald Schaefer organized the meeting in hopes that state Democrats could agree on which presidential candidate to support or else get behind the idea of running a favorite son candidate -- possibly Schaefer himself -- on the Super Tuesday presidential primary ballot in Maryland in March.
The group, which included Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), executives from the state's largest counties, and leading state legislators, decided that it is too risky to commit to a favorite son candidacy now and that there is no strong consensus for any of the announced Democratic presidential candidates.
They decided to withhold endorsements or commitments to any candidate for at least a month, when they plan to get together again. The next meeting is expected to include members of the state's congressional delegation, who were called into a voting session on Capitol Hill Monday evening and were unable to participate in the strategy session as planned.
Schaefer has considered running as a favorite son candidate as a way to increase Maryland's impact on the selection of a Democratic nominee. A favorite son could try to win favors for the state in return for supporting one of the active presidential candidates if there is a close race or a brokered convention.
But Schaefer said recently he is not wedded to the idea, and he indicated that he is not sure that he should be the person to run if party leaders agree on a favorite son candidacy.
"I think he left the impression that if there was a groundswell of support for his candidacy . . . he'd allow his name to go on the ballot as a favorite son," said state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Prince George's).
"I think he really, truly was trying to exert some political leadership for the good of the state," said Prince George's County Executive Parris Glendening, who has had a sometimes rocky rapport with the governor. "He said he almost certainly would not want to be the favorite son candidate."
Miller, Glendening and other politicians have said that if a Democratic candidate catches fire and does well in the Maryland primary, a favorite son candidate could be embarrassed by a poor showing. They said that if Schaefer runs as a favorite son, some active Democratic candidates might decide not to run in the Maryland primary, which could stir resentment among voters who want to make their own primary selections.
Elected officials who attended the meeting said they agree -- at least for now -- that Maryland Democrats should try to present a united front.