Prince George's County Executive Parris N. Glendening was at Poplar Hill's First Christian Church last week doing what he has been doing regularly of late: introducing himself to Baltimore voters and explaining why he wants to be governor.
The 51-year-old political science professor and third-term county executive offered the 75 political activists in the room his basic stump speech.
It touts his record on increasing funding for education, creating jobs and fighting crime. If elected governor, the Prince George's Democrat said, he could do the same for Maryland.
Mr. Glendening finished the talk with a message tailored for his Baltimore audience. "The last thing that is of importance is where a person is born," he said. "The thing that is important is their vision for the state and their track record."
That message sounds different from the one that Mr. Glendening has sent in parts of Maryland where the prevailing notion is that Baltimore unfairly dominates state politics. In those places, he previously has made it clear that he thought geography should be a factor when Maryland elects a governor in 1994.
Last year, for instance, Mr. Glendening told the Charles County Chamber of Commerce: "We must have a governor from this region. We don't get our fair share [from Annapolis]."
Asked about the apparent contradiction, Mr. Glendening said that, taken in context, his message is consistent across the state.
"The whole issue is one of fairness," he said, adding that no jurisdiction in Maryland should benefit at the expense of another. "What I want to do is bring the state together."
His aides also noted that Mr. Glendening's earlier statements came in the midst of a cut in state education aid that severely hurt Prince George's, while hurting Baltimore much less.
Those once-hot budget battles have since cooled. Perhaps more important, two Baltimore residents -- Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. -- recently took themselves out of the governor's race.
As a result, Baltimore's 285,000 registered Democrats are perceived to be up for grabs in next September's party primary. And Mr. Glendening is courting them.
"When the city is suffering, the whole state is suffering," he said after his recent speech at the church to members of a local Democratic club. Baltimore gets no more than it deserves from state government, Mr. Glendening said. "The needs are very, very great here."
Clearly, Baltimore now looms large in Mr. Glendening's campaign strategy.
Last week's appearance was among dozens of Baltimore-area events featuring him in recent weeks, and the pace promises to continue.
Mr. Glendening is scheduled for more than 20 coffees, dinners or personal meetings in and around the city this month, as well as a large fund-raiser here.
His past statements aside, Mr. Glendening is confident that his message will sell as well in the Baltimore area as elsewhere in the state.
"The issues I talk about are crucial to Baltimore," he said. "Jobs, education and [strategies to battle] crime and violence are absolutely crucial."
The Glendening message is resonating among some people previously poised to back Mr. Schmoke for governor.
City Comptroller Jacqueline F. McLean moved to support Mr. Glendening after the mayor, the front runner in most early polls, said last month that he would not run for governor.
"I think he will pick up more support once people have an opportunity to focus in on what his platform is going to be," Mrs. McLean said. "He is strong on economic development."
While the other Democratic hopefuls -- Lt. Gov. Melvin A. "Mickey" Steinberg and state Sen. Mary H. Boergers of Montgomery County -- are bound to reap some benefits from Mr. Schmoke's decision not to run, Mr. Glendening's supporters argue that he and the mayor share similar philosophies.
"I believe Mayor Schmoke and Mr. Glendening share views on many issues," said Lalit H. Gadhia, a member of Mr. Schmoke's campaign finance committee and treasurer of one of Mr. Glendening's campaign organizations.
"Now there is an opportunity for people who share the views of both men to support Mr. Glendening for governor."
Mr. Glendening's pitch in Baltimore -- and throughout Maryland -- grows from his record as county executive in Prince George's, a large county that has become more high-tech, racially diverse and upscale during his 11-year tenure.
He says that change is not merely a consequence of the county's proximity to Washington. He says it reflects his administration's efforts.
In the past decade, Prince George's County attracted 108,000 jobs, while Maryland lost jobs.
That county's median family income has jumped from $29,000 to $53,000.
Spending on schools has increased dramatically there, and the county ranks sixth in Maryland in school spending.
Also, the overall crime rate fell 7 percent in Prince George's between 1981 and 1992, and violent crime has decreased over the past two years.
But as the campaign progresses, Mr. Glendening will be asked about other county statistics he doesn't mention on the stump.
Homicides doubled in Prince George's between 1979 and 1989. Last year, the county recorded 134 slayings.
Despite increased spending, school achievement in the county ranks next-to-last in Maryland, according to a recent report.
And, despite rising incomes, the county has been unable to attract high-end shopping centers, which usually gravitate to wealthier communities.
Mr. Glendening promises that he would bring to the governor's office a vision that it does not now have. He said he will focus on five E's: education, the economy, law enforcement, the environment and excellence in government.
"I bet if you asked people what the vision was for state government, they wouldn't be able to answer," Mr. Glendening said.
He says that education funding should be increased statewide. He would pay for it by using early retirement programs to trim the state government's 71,000-member work force, by improving the state's economy and by eliminating items from the budget.
He says that he is opposed to tax increases to achieve his goal, saying that state leaders must wring every possible efficiency from government before considering new taxes.
Mr. Glendening also says that the state should be doing more to attract high-paying jobs.
It is scandalous, he says, that Maryland was never in serious contention for a $300 million Mercedes-Benz assembly plant that the German automaker is building on a 1,000-acre tract in Alabama. The plant, and related businesses, are expected to produce 13,000 jobs.
"That site is 200 miles from a port," he said. "When I see that, I think of East Baltimore and all the vacant sites there. Where was the state?"
He says that Maryland officials should have pledged to buy a large tract in the city, clear it and offer it to the automaker for free, in an effort to land the plant.
As part of his crime-prevention message, Mr. Glendening has called for more black leaders to condemn criminal activity.
"I know it's controversial, but we also need the black leadership to stand up and help us," he said.
"I am a middle-aged white man, yet 90 percent of the murders that occurred in Prince George's County were young African-American males killing young African-American males."
Mr. Glendening has been quietly pushing these ideas in talks before small groups as his early campaign for governor has unfolded.
But now he is preparing to take his message to a larger audience. Already, he has raised more than $620,000 for his campaign and he expects to raise $3 million before next year's primary, said John T. Willis, his chief of staff.
The campaign recently hired Emily Smith, who was director of President Clinton's campaign in Maryland last year, to manage Mr. Glendening's effort. Mr. Glendening plans to use the money and the political experts to deliver a simple message.
"I believe in really including people in government," he said.
"I believe in a clearly articulated vision."