Once a slow burn, it's now a wildfire
Rift: The political battle between the governor and the comptroller
has engulfed other
Democratic officials, who say they fear it could harm the party this election year.
By Tim Craig
September 5, 2002
The political feud between Gov. Parris N. Glendening and Comptroller
William Donald Schaefer intensified yesterday as the governor promised
more criticism, the
Prince George's County executive promoted his radio ad for Schaefer and 50 women assembled in Annapolis to support the comptroller.
Schaefer, whom the governor has scolded for referring to women as "little girls," apparently has not taken the criticism to heart.
"These are my little girls," he said yesterday as he greeted the women who rallied at the State House. "All my little girls. I really appreciate it. You made my day."
For his part, Glendening sharpened his attacks on Schaefer and defended
his radio ads that depict the comptroller as someone who demeans women
The governor, who supports Secretary of State John T. Willis in the primary against Schaefer, suggested that the ads were an opening salvo and made clear he will
continue his attacks on the comptroller.
Schaefer responded by saying he is not racist or sexist. The former
governor and Baltimore mayor noted that he has appointed many women and
government positions during his career.
Other Democrats are jumping into the fray, including some of the state's most prominent African-American officials.
Former Treasurer Richard N. Dixon, the first African-American to sit
on the state Board of Public Works, repeated his previous charge that Schaefer
But Prince George's County Executive Wayne K. Curry, that county's first
black chief executive, accused Glendening of playing "the race card." Curry
was so upset
by Glendening's ad that he has taped a radio ad criticizing Willis.
The furor is starting to worry Democrats, who say they fear the rift is hurting the Democratic Party.
"I hope it reverses before the damage gets to be irreparable," said
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, noting that Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy
needs a unified party if she is to be elected governor over Republican Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.
Willis said spirited exchanges are to be expected in a campaign. "The
fact is that people have felt that the incumbent's style is a style that
belittles and berates," he
said in an interview while campaigning in Montgomery County. "I think that Schaefer's conduct in the last 10 years is hurting the Democratic Party."
Schaefer, 80, is locked in an increasingly bitter - and, many Democrats
say they believe, close - primary contest with Willis, 55, who is Glendening's
friend and an
Willis has accused Schaefer of mistreating officials who appear before
the Board of Public Works. He has also criticized Schaefer for voting against
environmental agenda, such as the governor's efforts to buy land to protect it from development.
The race has become a duel between Glendening and Schaefer, who have
been political enemies for most of the past four years. Schaefer, seeking
a second term as
comptroller, has accused Glendening of pressuring Willis to enter the primary - a charge that Willis denies.
Glendening purchased radio ads this week praising Willis and reminding
voters that Schaefer has called women "little girls" and African-Americans
governor, whose political committee is paying for the ads, is also financing calls to 60,000 voters on behalf of Willis.
Schaefer said yesterday that the governor was using "gutter tactics," adding, "I expect it from him."
Glendening and Schaefer were at yesterday's meeting of the Board of
Public Works. The governor, comptroller and treasurer make up the board,
which must vote
on all major state contracts.
Schaefer and Glendening have used the meetings to spar over political and personal issues. Yesterday, however, they largely kept their distance.
Schaefer glared at the governor for several seconds before the meeting
convened. He then looked at Glendening and said, "You need a haircut."
After the meeting, Glendening said he was standing by his radio ads.
"I just feel very strongly that we ought to treat people with dignity
and respect," Glendening said. "It's embarrassing to see professionals
come before the board ...
and have them called 'little girl.'"
He said he is thinking about other ways to boost Willis' candidacy,
even if that means more attacks on Schaefer. "I have all kinds of ideas
running around in my
head," Glendening said. "We will have more news for you shortly."
The women who rallied in support of Schaefer - including several prominent
Democrats - said Glendening has gone too far. "This is the governor of
[paying] to spread allegations about the comptroller that those who worked with him know are not true," said state Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp, who spoke at the
The supporters, some of whom waved signs saying "Another Little Girl
For Schaefer," said the term is a badge of honor. "I earned the title 'little
girl,'" said Hilda E.
Ford, who was state personnel secretary in Schaefer's Cabinet when he was governor. "He just didn't give it away to anyone."
Baltimore City Councilwomen Catherine E. Pugh and Rochelle "Rikki" Spector
also praised Schaefer for appointing significant numbers of women to government
when he was governor and mayor.
Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski and state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick
issued statements yesterday reaffirming their support for Schaefer. Townsend
supports him as well.
Curry and others are critical of Glendening's attacks on Schaefer's
use of the term "Afro." Schaefer has said he used the term once and then
"There is a style developing with Mr. Glendening that whenever he wants to attack someone, he plays the race card," Curry said.
But Dixon, who as treasurer served on the Board of Public Works with
Schaefer, said he supports Glendening's ad. "You don't make those kinds
of statements in
2002," Dixon said of Schaefer. "He showed a complete insensitivity to 25 percent of the population."
To counter Glendening's ad, which is running on black-oriented radio
stations in suburban Washington, Curry taped a spot Tuesday noting that
Willis was the
architect of Glendening's redistricting map. Curry argues that the map sought to dilute African-American voting strength in the legislature.
Copyright © 2002, The Baltimore Sun