Gov. William Donald Schaefer's come-hither glances have already helped lure two candidates -- Republican Helen Delich Bentley and Democrat American Joe Miedusiewski -- into the gubernatorial race.
Now he's whispering to a third prospective political heir, millionaire Montgomery County businessman Stuart Bainum Jr., who hasn't said yes yet but has seemingly edged closer to taking the plunge.
Coyness may not be in Mr. Bainum's best interest. The governor, sources say, has begun a new, exceedingly discreet flirtation. The latest object of his attention: Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos.
For the moment, Mr. Bainum seems most susceptible to Mr. Schaefer's exhortations. "He is encouraging him," said a source close to the governor, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "He said he will help him with fund-raising."
Mr. Bainum declined comment yesterday except to say he hasn't made a decision about whether to run for governor. "Let's face it, I'm testing the waters," he said.
The governor, meanwhile, is said to be courting still another presumably worthy successor, Mr. Angelos.
"The governor likes him an awful lot," said the source close to Mr. Schaefer. "He would be the kind of guy the governor would definitely jump in with. They're friends, the governor encouraged him to buy the team, and he has a lot of respect for him."
Another source said that Mr. Angelos has been told by the governor that he and other political movers and shakers view the Orioles owner as the "most viable" potential candidate.
Mr. Angelos, a former Baltimore City Council member, said yesterday that a number of people, whom he refused to identify, have suggested he enter the race, but that he was "not inclined to run." He declined further comment.
It was not immediately clear how, if he does decide to run, Mr. Angelos would deal with the conflicts that might ensue from his ownership of the primary tenant at state-owned Orioles Park at Camden Yards.
The governor -- who is completing his second term and by law cannot succeed himself -- declined to be interviewed for this article. In November, when it was first reported that Mr. Schaefer was casting about for alternatives to those already in the race, he explained that, as governor, he had a duty to persuade high-caliber candidates to enter the field.
Wants good successor
His press secretary, Page W. Boinest, had little to say yesterday about her boss's political maneuvering.
"He obviously wants a good, strong successor," she said. "That's one of the reasons he's taken an interest in the race."
Mr. Bainum, 47, chairman and chief executive officer of Manor Care Inc., a Silver Spring-based nursing home and lodging firm, served one term in the House of Delegates, from 1979 to 1983, then a single term in the state Senate, from 1983 to 1987.
In 1986, he was the Democratic candidate for an open Montgomery County congressional seat. He spent about $1 million of his own money, but was defeated by Republican Constance A. Morella.
On Jan. 24, Mr. Bainum quietly created a candidate committee by filing with the state elections board in Annapolis. Leonard Louis Lucchi, a politically active Bowie attorney, was listed as chairman; David O. Stewart, a Washington lawyer who resides in Garrett Park, was named treasurer.
Registering a candidate committee permits the raising and spending of money to promote a candidate or prospective candidate, according to Rebecca M. Wicklund, an election board spokeswoman. It is not the same as filing for office, however, and does not commit the person establishing the committee to enter a race.
Mr. Bainum's guardedness apparently relates to his corporate responsibilities, in particular his desire not to do anything without consulting fully with his board of directors.
Despite his reluctance to discuss his plans publicly, rumors have been swirling in Annapolis for weeks about his possible candidacy, many of them centering on how much of his own money he might pour into a race.
Yesterday, Montgomery Journal columnist Blair Lee IV even coined a tongue-in-cheek campaign motto to help Mr. Bainum deflect potential charges that he might be trying to buy the election: "Bainum, Too Rich To Steal."
Mr. Schaefer, for a variety of reasons, dislikes three of the four announced Democratic gubernatorial candidates -- Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg, Prince George's County Executive Parris N. Glendening, and Montgomery County state Sen. Mary H. Boegers.
Because of his disdain for the field as it existed last fall, he encouraged Baltimore's Senator Miedusiewski to enter the race, which he did in November.
He also urged Mrs. Bentley, the Baltimore County-based congresswoman, to join the Republican field, which she also did in November.
Around that time, Mr. Schaefer also tried to talk Democratic Reps. Benjamin L. Cardin of the 3rd District and Steny H. Hoyer of the 5th District into the race, but was rebuffed.