Compared to this, his breakup with Frances Anne looked like a portrait of respectful restraint. The result, however, is the same: The partnership between Parris N. Glendening and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend is most definitely kaput.
If anyone had any doubts, election night should have provided proof positive. Late that night, Glendening's anger at his lieutenant governor billowed forth in a strikingly ungenerous assessment in The Washington Post of her effort, which he dubbed "one of the worst-run campaigns in the country."
For her part, Townsend thanked Glendening in her concession speech for giving her the opportunity to serve for eight years.
Since that night, Glendening has judiciously softened his remarks about any beef he might have with Townsend or her campaign. Instead, he offers a complimentary but businesslike sound bite.
"Kathleen, I believe, is a very, very good person," he said a few days ago. "She was a great lieutenant governor - I happen to believe, one of the greatest lieutenant governors in the country. And I also believe [she] would have been a great governor. Unfortunately, she didn't win the election. And now my responsibility is to look ahead and to do everything possible for a smooth and professional transfer of power."
But ask him when was the last time they talked, and he's silent for a moment. "I don't recall," he says.
The trouble began some months ago - or even some years ago, those close to the situation say. There are bad feelings on both sides, over slights real or perceived. In any case, the end of their alliance mirrors other frayed unions between Maryland's top two executives.
Until now, Glendening and Townsend have had, at least publicly, a relatively wrinkle-free relationship. When he chose her as his running mate in 1994, she said Glendening brought to mind words of her father, Robert F. Kennedy: "Youth is not a time of life, but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity."
She lent gender and geographical balance to his ticket (he's from Prince George's, she's from Baltimore County) and injected a dash of celebrity into his campaign. He gave her high-profile command of the Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention and the Department of Juvenile Justice and the opportunity to build her own political base.
They disagreed privately sometimes over policy and politics, but until she launched her gubernatorial run, her fealty to his agenda was unwavering. Townsend refrained from any public comment when Glendening's marriage of more than two decades fell apart as he began a relationship with his deputy chief of staff.
But by the 1998 re-election campaign, their respective staffs weren't getting along, said Peter Hamm, who worked for Glendening at the time and was Townsend's campaign spokesman until a few weeks ago.
"The governor's office treated the lieutenant governor's office like dirt. It was constantly, 'You're unimportant. You're not in the inner circle.' Kathleen's side just took it," he said. Adding to the problem was mutual dislike between Townsend's chief of staff, Alan H. Fleischmann, and Glendening, several sources said.
Even so, Townsend and Glendening remained collegial. Hamm said Townsend was sometimes recruited as a go-between when Glendening's staff was having trouble. Glendening, for instance, didn't want to hold a news conference after the 1998 election.
"He said, 'If I lose, I don't ever have to talk to the press again, and if I win, I don't ever have to talk to the press again,'" said Hamm. Townsend prevailed on him to change his mind.
But new grievances arose during this campaign season, those who have worked for both politicians said. Townsend was highly displeased when Glendening backed his friend, Secretary of State John T. Willis, to run against Comptroller William Donald Schaefer, who endorsed Townsend. Glendening made Willis' campaign his project, funding radio ads that said Schaefer demeaned women and African-Americans.
Budget pleas unheeded
In addition, over the summer Townsend made a personal appeal to Glendening to cut the budget in response to the growing shortfall. Her opponent, Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., was making the state's fiscal problems a centerpiece of his campaign, and polls were beginning to show that citizens were worried about it. But Glendening refused, saying he would address the budget only after Election Day.
(At their twice-monthly Board of Public Works meeting last week, Schaefer chose Glendening's election-night comment as the subject of his twice-monthly verbal drubbing of the governor: "You have a legacy. You left a $400 million deficit this year and a $1.7 billion deficit next year. And you double-crossed your lieutenant governor, which was despicable.")
Glendening's annoyance grew as well. He was being vilified by Ehrlich's camp in television advertisements and felt he was being treated like nuclear waste at the hands of Townsend's people, those close to him say. Nasty comments were filtering back to him, and he started getting mad.
As chairman of the Democratic Governors' Association, Glendening did round up contributions for Townsend through his connections with national Democratic groups. And he placed frequent calls to the campaign offering low-profile help, such as setting up meetings with potential supporters.
But Townsend's campaign - and Fleischmann - weren't interested. Glendening's popularity in the polls was anemic, and many on the staff thought it best to keep him at bay.
Some Townsend supporters disagreed with that strategy. "This was a guy who never lost an election, and she was a person who had never won one," said a prominent Democrat who described himself as friends with both Glendening and Townsend. "And yet she never asked him for help. He shouldn't have said what he said election night, but he wasn't wrong. He was getting beat up - nationally and every place else. How much can a person take?"
Some say Townsend (who could not be reached for comment) should have learned from Al Gore, who fled Bill Clinton's tarnished reputation in the 2000 presidential election, and lost.
But Hamm, who is no longer on Townsend's payroll, says the campaign did the right thing. "The guy's popularity was extremely low. What would he have had us do, march him around?"
The culmination of all this bickering was Glendening's now infamous worst-in-the-nation remark. The warring staffs are back working across the hall from each other in the State House, at least until January.
But a more lasting effect could be the continuation of a peculiar Maryland tradition: the seemingly inevitable rift between the governor and lieutenant. The examples are plenty - Gov. Marvin Mandel and Lt. Gov. Blair Lee IV; Gov. Harry R. Hughes and Lt. Gov. Samuel W. Bogley III; Gov. Schaefer and Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg.
And now, it appears, Gov. Glendening and Lt. Gov. Townsend.
Regardless, Townsend refused to parry Glendening's comment two days after her defeat - or to discuss the governor's role at all. "The people of Maryland wanted change," she said. "I am the agent of change, but it was hard to get that message out."
Sun staff writer Greg Garland contributed to this article.
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