For Maryland's many political junkies, the most intriguing question this election year is: What does Gov. William Donald Schaefer do with himself after about mid-day on the third Wednesday in January, when his successor is sworn in.
On that date, Jan. 18, 1995, he will be 73. At the moment he is healthy and vigorous and there is no reason to believe that will change in the next 8 1/2 months. And yet, after a lifetime of public service, he is put out to pasture.
Are there alternatives? Let's look over the political landscape and take a mad pundit's view of what might transpire if certain things fell into place.
We start with Paul S. Sarbanes, incumbent U.S. senator, a lawyer of scholarly, one might even say judicial temperament.
In 1974, as a Democratic congressman, he served on the House committee investigating Watergate. At the behest of the chairman, Rep. Peter Rodino, Mr. Sarbanes presented the first article of impeachment against Richard M. Nixon. Even back then he seemed like a judge.
Two years after the Watergate hearings, Mr. Sarbanes was elected to the Senate. He is nearing the end of his third six-year term, with strong indications that he will face a formidable Republican candidate in November.
Now that Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell has removed himself from consideration for the U.S. Supreme Court seat being vacated by Associate Justice Harry Blackmun, Mr. Sarbanes has surfaced as a possible replacement.
Let's say he were tapped by President Clinton, either for the high court or, perhaps, for a seat on a lower federal court.
Stranger things have happened. Both Mr. Clinton and Mr. Sarbanes, after all, are Rhodes Scholars. And let's say Mr. Sarbanes said yes.
We now have a vacancy in the Senate. Under Maryland law, the governor is empowered to fill that vacancy. He could, conceivably, pick himself for the job, but that would be tacky. More important, Mr. Schaefer is an executive at heart, not a legislator.
As Mr. Schaefer reflects on the options, suppose his gaze settles on an old object of his affection, Baltimore City Hall, where he spent 15 of his happiest years.
The governor's old office, of course, has been occupied since December 1987 by another man, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, with whom Mr. Schaefer has not had an especially warm relationship the past eight years.
Mr. Schmoke, another Rhodes Scholar, thought of running for governor this year, but decided against it. But associates say he would love to serve in the Senate, assuming Mr. Sarbanes, a close friend for whom he once interned as a youth, was out of the picture.
Mr. Schaefer, under this scenario, could make it happen. He could name Mr. Schmoke to fill the Sarbanes seat in the Senate, giving the mayor a step up on other prospective candidates.
Mr. Schmoke would be tough to beat if he runs again for mayor in 1995, as seems likely, although City Council President Mary Pat Clarke seems determined to oppose him. Mr. Schaefer, who has considered taking him on as well, knows he would be no pushover.
So why not send Mr. Schmoke to Washington. Mrs. Clarke would become mayor. And if all these strange and wondrous things were to occur, on that third Wednesday in January, Mrs. Clarke may well see a familiar face barreling up Ritchie Highway, his eye on a once and perhaps future prize.
Next week: An even more outlandish scenario.
Ollie in Calvert
Thriller writer Tom Clancy and his wife, Wanda, are holding a suitably clandestine, big bucks fund-raiser May 18 for Oliver L. North, late of the Iran-contra scandal, currently a GOP Senate candidate in Virginia, at their home in Calvert County.
"For security purposes, transportation will be provided from three central locations," the invitation says, seemingly tongue-in-cheek.
Buses to the Clancy manse in Huntingtown are to leave from Washington, Baltimore and Tyson's Corner, the precise departure points to be revealed upon the campaign committee's receipt of a check. For Individual Patriots, as they are called in the invitation, the price is $1,000. PAC Patriots pay $5,000.
The host committee includes Watergate figure G. Gordon Liddy and Mr. North's old boss at the National Security Council, retired Rear Adm. John M. Poindexter.