Presidential candidate John Glenn predicted today that he will carry Maryland in next May's Democratic primary despite top-heavy support among the state's Democratic leadership for former vice president Walter F. Mondale.
Speaking at a press conference and reception held to announce his Maryland committee, a group of 58 legislators and local officials from across the state, the Ohio senator said: "We'll put this team up against anyone."
Earlier this year Mondale, in a similar one-day swing through Maryland, picked up the endorsements of the major Democrats elected statewide, including Gov. Harry Hughes, Lt. Gov. J. Joseph Curran Jr. and Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein. Mondale has also won the backing of Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes (D-Md.), Maryland Attorney General Stephen H. Sachs and Democratic Reps. Barbara A. Mikulski from Baltimore and Michael D. Barnes from Montgomery County.
Democratic Rep. Roy Dyson is the only Maryland congressman thus far to endorse Glenn, although Rep. Beverly B. Byron is said to be leaning toward the former astronaut.
The Glenn committee announced today has few black members, but Glenn's state chairman, Donald P. Hutchinson, said several additional black Democrats and members of other minority groups are expected to join the Maryland effort soon.
At today's press conference, Glenn, responding to questions about the deaths Sunday of two U.S. Marines in Beirut, called on President Reagan to give Congress a detailed plan on how long the Marines will remain in Lebanon and what specific role they will play.
President Reagan "should bring that matter back to Congress for approval under the War Powers Act," Glenn said. "We can no longer have the president deny that there is imminent danger."
Glenn said he did not believe the Marines should be withdrawn from Lebanon now, but, he said, "I'm not for an unlimited commitment of troops in that area."
Glenn's appearance in Baltimore was part of an afternoon and evening of activities planned to counteract Mondale's faster start in Maryland.
Hutchinson said the Glenn committee was hoping to raise as much as $35,000 at two fund-raisers today. One, at $100 a person, was for Democratic activists, and one, at $500 a person and held on a boat in Baltimore's Inner Harbor, was for larger contributors.
None of the other presidential hopefuls besides Glenn and Mondale has spent much time in Maryland or had much success so far in winning supporters among the state's Democratic hierarchy. State party officials have said they believe Maryland's May 8 primary will be a Glenn-Mondale race.
Although many of those who came to this afternoon's events were still uncommitted, there was a strong feeling that Glenn might be the only Democrat able to unseat Reagan in 1984.
"My heart is with Mondale and my head is with Glenn," said State Del. Mary Boergers (D-Montgomery). "My bottom line is to get rid of Reagan."
That sentiment apparently allowed Hutchinson to put together a diverse group of people on the state committee. "Ideologically I'm certainly more comfortable with Mondale," said State Sen. Julian Lapides, a Baltimore liberal. "But let's face it, this guy has the best chance to tie all the elements of the party in this state together. You're not going to get guys like conservative state legislators Jim Simpson D-Southern Maryland and Frank Kelly D-Baltimore County out there beating the drums for Mondale."