The political director for Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg's campaign for governor will have to schedule his time carefully this summer because he has decided to wage his own campaign for the state Senate from a district on the Lower Eastern Shore.
Dennis C. Donaldson, a former three-term delegate from Prince George's County who has been one of Mr. Steinberg's most loyal lieutenants, filed to represent Somerset, Worcester and most of Wicomico counties just two hours before Monday's 9 p.m. filing deadline.
Neither Mr. Donaldson nor Mr. Steinberg could be reached yesterday for comment. Dan Walter, a campaign spokesman, said Mr. Donaldson intends to continue his work for Mr. Steinberg even as he fights for the Democratic nomination in the Sept. 13 primary and, if he survives there, wages an uphill battle against the Republican incumbent, Sen. J. Lowell Stoltzfus, in the Nov. 8 general election.
"The line here is that Mickey [Mr. Steinberg] is fully behind Denny's run for the Senate and doesn't see any conflict with the campaign," Mr. Walter said, adding that the lieutenant governor was convinced that Mr. Donaldson could do both jobs simultaneously.
"There is no thought of him leaving the campaign," Mr. Walter said.
"Denny acted completely with Mickey's blessing. It was something he has thought out very carefully over the last several weeks, I would imagine. He went to Mickey, they discussed it, and Mickey was very comfortable with it. He sees no problem."
Senator Stoltzfus, who was elected to the House of Delegates in 1990 and moved to the Senate a year later to fill a vacancy, said, "I knew Denny was working with Steinberg, so it did surprise me he was running."
Mr. Stoltzfus, a cabbage farmer and a longtime resident of the Lower Shore, said, "The rank and file down here on the Shore don't know Denny Donaldson. They don't know who he is. As far as name recognition, he doesn't have any in this district."
If Mr. Donaldson were to leave the Steinberg camp, or even to curtail his activities, it could be another blow to a campaign already hampered by staff defections and other stumbles, including most recently the spectacle of Mr. Steinberg's difficulty in finding someone to run on his ticket for lieutenant governor.
"Denny remained loyal to Mickey even when the campaign turned sour. He's one of the few people who has remained loyal to him," said William R. McCaffrey, a former Prince George's delegate who served in the House with Mr. Donaldson.
But in recent weeks, there have been signs of a possible rift between the two men. Late last month, Mr. Steinberg publicly blamed Mr. Donaldson for writing a strongly worded letter virtually commanding Democratic members of the General Assembly to appear at a Steinberg fund-raiser.
And over the long July Fourth weekend, Mr. Donaldson appeared to be out of the loop as Mr. Steinberg tried to find a running mate; he admitted to reporters that he was waiting by the telephone just like everyone else.
Mr. Donaldson grew up in the Prince George's community of District Heights and was a neighbor and classmate of Steny H. Hoyer, now a Maryland congressman.
Mr. Donaldson worked as a police detective in Washington, D.C., for 10 years before turning to a political career. In addition to his three terms in the Maryland House, where he rose to become speaker pro tem, he has served as a legislative liaison for the Department of Transportation and as an aide to Gov. William Donald Schaefer. He coached football for a year at Salisbury State, and once considered running against former 1st District Rep. Roy P. Dyson.
He owns a house in Ocean Pines, a relatively new development in Worcester County.
His opponent in the Democratic primary will be Donald E. Ewalt Jr. of Salisbury, a 59-year-old retired pharmaceutical salesman for Bristol Myers. Mr. Ewalt is a former member of the Wicomico County School Board, but has never held elective office.
He said he was unaware of Mr. Donaldson's last-minute filing until told of it by a reporter.