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State House Merry-G0-Round


The soap opera masquerading as Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg's campaign for governor took another bizarre turn this week. By Tuesday's filing deadline, two politicians had been left at the altar and a third, state Sen. James Simpson of Charles County, had signed up as Mr. Steinberg's mate.

First former Congressman Tom McMillen was in. Then he was out (after it became clear he had all but moved out of state). Next to fall was state Sen. Thomas P. O'Reilly of Prince George's County, who twice said he'd be lieutenant governor. That collapsed when Mr. O'Reilly realized he had an ethics problem if he continued serving as a Workmen's Compensation Commission judge.

So Mr. Steinberg turned to his fallback candidate, the blunt-speaking Senator Simpson, who had wanted the post all along.

This last-minute drama overshadowed the record number of candidates who filed in state races. Redistricting and retirements account for this trend, which guarantees a sea change in the General Assembly and county councils.

Voters will have a varied choice in the race for governor. On the Democratic side, the main contenders are a candidate running primarily on a feminist agenda (Montgomery County Sen. Mary Boergers), a candidate running as a plain-speaking populist (Baltimore City Sen. American Joe Miedusiewski), a candidate running as an experienced policy wonk (Prince George's County Executive Parris Glendening) and a candidate whose murky platform continues to evolve daily (Mr. Steinberg).

On the Republican side, the choices are a tough-talking congresswoman (Helen Bentley of Baltimore County), a true-blue conservative (Del. Ellen Sauerbrey of Baltimore County) and a career diplomat (Bill Shepard of Montgomery County). This contested primary signals a rejuvenated state GOP.

There is no white-knight candidate for voters to embrace. All the gubernatorial hopefuls have their flaws. Voters will have to sort out the differences between contenders carefully. This is one election where the electorate had better pay close attention to what's being said. Making a selection on Sept. 13 could prove a difficult task for Marylanders who go to the polls.

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