It almost seemed as if William Donald Schaefer arrived looking for a fight. The state comptroller, whom everyone still calls "governor," took his seat next to Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D), his successor in the top job, at the Board of Public Works meeting earlier this month with a dour look on his face and a hankering to mix things up.
Just a day earlier, Schaefer (D) had called Glendening "inflexible" for waiting too long to revisit statewide mandatory restrictions on water use. And at the first logical opportunity to talk about water, Schaefer did: It happened when a hapless official from the Maryland Department of the Environment stepped forward to address the board.
"I want to know if there is enough water in Baltimore and Anne Arundel County to lift these restrictions?" Schaefer quizzed the official, as Glendening looked on uncomfortably.
"I'm the budget director," the man said. "But I could call our secretary and get that information to you later today."
"Could you call now?" Schaefer said as the official departed to make the necessary phone calls. "I'd like the information now. Can anyone tell me whether there is enough water in Baltimore?"
He glanced pointedly at Glendening, who stared ahead. (Later the same day, Glendening lifted the mandatory restrictions in favor of a voluntary call for conservation.)
But things really heated up when Schaefer, out of the blue, asked transportation officials a bizarre question: Where was the bus he used when he was governor to zigzag across the state? He needed it to take some people to Western Maryland.
The garishly painted bus was emblazoned with the words "Do It Now," a motto better suited to the populist big-city mayor than the policy wonk who succeeded him as governor. So Glendening sold it. "I didn't care for it," he told Schaefer.
"He sold my bus?" Schaefer muttered, like a boy who lost a ball. He asked the governor to provide him with another bus for an upcoming trip. "And I want it painted," Schaefer added to laughter, though he wasn't really joking.
A Trio for Townsend
Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (D), considered the early front-runner for governor in 2002, is clearly trying to put some distance between her and her possible rivals by staking an early claim to money.
On Thursday, guests ponied up $1,000 a person for a Baltimore fund-raiser. That's a hefty amount this soon before the election. The dinner at the Della Notte restaurant in Little Italy was put together by a consortium of labor and business leaders, including locals of the United Auto Workers, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and a coalition of firefighter unions.
"They came to us and said we want to do this," said Townsend's finance chairman, Jeffrey Liss. He said the organizers came up with the dollar amount.
The dinner was the middle event in a trio of high-profile fund-raisers for the lieutenant governor this summer.
In July, Townsend celebrated her 48th birthday with a $10-a-person fund-raiser at the Baltimore Zoo that attracted more than 3,000. That was intended to be more of a show of her grass-roots support than a fund-raiser.
The third fund-raiser will be Saturday. That one is to be thrown by her mother, Ethel Kennedy, wife of the late Robert F. Kennedy, at the family's home at Hyannisport, Mass. It's the fourth year Ethel Kennedy has held an event for her daughter on Cape Cod at the compound that is so part of the family's heritage. Last year's attracted about 60 people, mostly longtime supporters of the Kennedy family, activist Democratic women and a contingent of Marylanders. Liss said he does not know how much money will be raised.
"It's for key supporters who've been significant in their support and who will be in the future," he said. There is no fixed contribution requested. Maryland law--which applies no matter where Townsend raises her money--limits individuals to giving a single candidate no more than $4,000 during a four-year election cycle.
The early emphasis on fund-raising is intentional, Liss acknowledged. "There's a definite desire on Kathleen's part to raise early money, so if she runs, she'll be in a position where she won't be focusing all of her energies on raising money instead of running the campaign she wants to run."
This early focus on cash hasn't been lost on two of Townsend's possible rivals for the Democratic nomination, Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan and Baltimore County Executive C.A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger III.
They both have filed voluntary campaign fund-raising reports in recent weeks. Duncan has about $226,000 on hand. Ruppersberger has about $800,000.