Let the Real Campaign for Governor Begin

It's been painful watching Maryland Democrats. An incumbent governor gets pilloried in good times by spiteful, plotting members of his own party allied with gambling interests. Racial divisions, which can take time to repair, crop up needlessly.

You have to wonder whether Maryland's close proximity to Washington has something to do with it. In Washington, political warfare is round-the-clock big business, and the news media is lathered up to cover it full-time. Have the ways of Washington spread our way?

Let's hope not.

Primary elections often are crude, wasteful, ego-driven affairs, a lot like family squabbles. Rarely are incumbents unseated, and never when challengers present no compelling case.

Eileen Rehrmann, the Howard County Democratic executive who pulled out of the Democratic primary this week, never came close to making the case against Gov. Parris Glendening. She was an opportunist with little apparent vision, hoping to parlay the divisive issue of gambling and Glendening's political feuds into higher office.

When she quit -- too late to have her name stricken from the ballot -- it wasn't about principle; it was about money and her inability to raise the obscene amounts needed to write the checks to Baltimore and Washington television stations for campaign advertising. (Perhaps she should have considered local and regional media like NBT.)

She'll be forgotten. But the role of some of Maryland's prominent African American politicians is a different story. Prince George's County Executive Wayne Curry, Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke and strategist Larry Gibson frittered away political capital in following (or was it leading?) Rehrmann. They'll remain important players, albeit stripped of some clout. Whether or not Glendening survives, it's hard to see how the people these Democrats represent will prosper from their political mischief.

Supporters of Ellen Sauerbrey, Glendening's certain Republican opponent in November, were crestfallen at Rehrmann's departure. As state Republican chair Joyce Terhes of Calvert County observed, Sauerbrey and others will have to hammer harder at Glendening's ethics now with Rehrmann out of the picture.

Let's hope we hear more. So far, this sorry campaign for governor has had little to do with the public policy issues confronting Maryland. So far, it's been about feuds and slot machines and vague ethics charges rather than managing growth, restoring the Chesapeake Bay and planning for the state's economic future when times aren't so rosy.

Glendening and Sauerbrey have starkly different views about where Maryland should be headed in the new millennium. It's about time we hear what they have to say.

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VolumeVI Number 32
August 13-19, 1998
New Bay Times

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