Aides play musical chairs on eve of election year


There are political consultants, polling consultants, media consultants and consultants for whatever other need -- real or imagined -- an aspirant for political office might have.

Everybody has them, except GOP gubernatorial hopeful William S. Shepard, who is a one-man shop.

So, as the new year begins and the election-year jitters jump onto candidates like fleas, some campaigns are shifting, trading in one consultant for another.

The campaign of Lt. Gov. Melvin A. "Mickey" Steinberg, which has been stumbling along, is hoping its new political guru will turn things around.

In October, Mr. Steinberg got rid of his initial pick, former Baltimore County Executive Theodore G. Venetoulis, a one-time political ally, publisher and commentator, over disagreements about how the campaign should be run, among other things.

Their divorce is said to be still in the process of being worked out, hung up on a contract dispute.

After briefly courting Clinton strategist James Carville, the lieutenant governor recently replaced Mr. Venetoulis with Michael F. Ford, who owns Bay Communications Inc. of Annapolis.

Mr. Ford is an old friend and former boss of Joe Trippi, a principal in Trippi, McMahon & Squier, the Virginia-based national media consultants advising Mr. Steinberg's campaign. Mr. Ford and Mr. Trippi, once described as "political gypsies," have common roots in the presidential campaigns of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., and Walter F. Mondale.

Mr. Ford, originally from Montgomery County, is in the final stages of putting the new Steinberg team together, including a "day-to-day" campaign manager, deputy campaign manager, a field operations director and a new press secretary.

Diane Reis, who was brought in as Mr. Steinberg's campaign spokeswoman by Mr. Venetoulis, is leaving Friday to return to Capitol Hill as press secretary for Sen. Jim Sasser, the Democrat from Tennessee.

Sauerbrey shake-up

On the Republican side of the governor's race, state Delegate Ellen R. Sauerbrey, the House minority leader from Baltimore County, also had a little shake-up of her own, just before Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, the 2nd District congresswoman, announced her gubernatorial bid early last month.

Mrs. Sauerbrey hired James E. Murphy Jr., a Gaithersburg political consultant who handled Del. Martha S. Klima's unsuccessful bid for the GOP nomination in the 1992 U.S. Senate race.

Mr. Murphy also worked on the 1986 campaign of New York Republican Sen. Alfonse M. D'Amato and two years later was national field operations director for Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole in his presidential bid.

He later managed the ill-fated 1989 New York mayoral campaign of Ronald S. Lauder, the multi-millionaire son of cosmetics queen Estee Lauder, when he ran for the GOP nomination against Rudolph W. Giuliani.

Once on board the Sauerbrey campaign, Mr. Murphy apparently recommended bringing in a public relations firm to put the proper spin on the Bentley candidacy -- though campaign press secretary Carol Arscott had been fulfilling that role for years.

Richards R. Badmington, the principal in James Holechek Public Relations Inc. in Cross Keys, handled the media on the day of Mrs. Bentley's announcement by scheduling interview times with Mrs. Sauerbrey.

Ms. Arscott, who has toiled in GOP vineyards for years, quit about 10 days later.

She now is spending more time with Mason-Dixon Campaign Polling, where she is vice president.

More gubernatorial air time

After seven years of Gov. William Donald Schaefer, you probably thought you'd heard enough of him and that he'd be winding down in his last year in office.


Instead of phasing out the governor in the coming year, WBAL-AM is giving Mr. Schaefer an extra 15 minutes each week to chat on his weekly radio show.

In addition to expanding the call-in show from a half-hour to 45 minutes, Mr. Schaefer will move to a new time slot -- from 3:30 p.m. Thursdays with Ron Smith to 12:15 p.m. Thursdays with Alan R. Walden.

"It's the governor's way of taking the state's pulse," said Page W. Boinest, the governor's press secretary. "It's a good way of checking what people are concerned about."

Some listeners thought it was his outlet to rail about The Sun.

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