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IS KURT SCHMOKE going to prove an...


IS KURT SCHMOKE going to prove an old pet theory of mine wrong? Again? For the 23rd consecutive time?

In 1972 I wrote in a biography of Spiro Agnew that the future belonged to suburban politicians like him (Baltimore County).The suburbs were growing, cities weren't. Suburbanites, opposed to the politics of mayors and city councils, whose constituencies were increasingly poor, dependent and black, would stick together and elect their own to important statewide offices.

So what happened? In Maryland, which is more suburban than most states, because it has two large suburbs but only one large city, no suburban pol has made it to high-level statewide office since then.

1974, Marvin Mandel of the city won the governor's race, Charles Mathias of Frederick (small town Western Maryland) won the U.S. Senate race. 1976, Paul Sarbanes of the city won the U.S. Senate race. 1978, Harry Hughes late of Caroline County (Eastern Shore) but by '78 a city resident won the governor's race. 1980, Mathias re-elected. 1982, Hughes and Sarbanes re-elected. 1986, Barbara Mikulski won the Senate seat and William Donald Schaefer won the governorship. She was a council member here, he the mayor. 1988, Sarbanes. 1990, Schaefer, 1992, Mikulski.

Twelve straight, and that's not the whole story. The state attorney generalship, the next highest statewide office to which a person is independently elected, has been won by a city boy in every one of those elections: 1974, Bill Burch. 1978, 1982, Steve Sachs. 1986, 1990, Joe Curran. And Louis Goldstein of Calvert County (rural Southern Maryland) won the next most important office, comptroller of the Treasury, in '74, '78, '82, '86 and '90.

Twenty-two straight shutouts for the big suburban counties. In the 20-year string of elections after I wrote my Agnew book, the 'burbs have been living off table scraps: lieutenant governor, state treasurer, secretary of state.

Some observers thought 1994 would be different. Schaefer can't run again. Sarbanes and Goldstein were going to retire. Curran was going to give up the AG's job to run for governor. Four big vacancies.

The early line of most-favored contenders for the governorship were suburbanites: Parris Glendening, the Prince George's County executive; Robert Neall, the Anne Arundel County executive; Mickey Steinberg, the lieutenant governor who is from Baltimore County; Winfield Kelly, the secretary of state from P.G. But Neall is now said to be unlikely. Kelly ruled himself out. Meanwhile, Sarbanes and Goldstein indicated they would not retire.

Now, with Mayor Schmoke thinking about entering the gubernatorial race, and the prospect that he would have a great appeal in the city, P.G. County, with its large black vote, and Montgomery County, with its large Ivy League bloc, it looks very much like the suburbs will find themselves in 1994 still on the outside looking in.

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