Prince George's County Executive Parris N. Glendening scored a major coup last night in his bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination by capturing the unanimous endorsement of organized labor in the state.
The Maryland State and D.C. AFL-CIO, an umbrella group for 420,000 union members statewide, threw its weight behind Mr. Glendening, despite opposition earlier in the day from union representatives backing two other Democratic candidates, Lt. Gov. Melvin A. "Mickey" Steinberg and state Sen. American Joe Miedusiewski of Baltimore.
Delegates to the state federation's endorsement convention in Baltimore followed the recommendation of the group's executive board, which met all afternoon behind closed doors to decide which candidates would have labor's blessing in the primary elections.
In a surprise move, the group endorsed Eleanor M. Carey for attorney general over Democratic incumbent J. Joseph Curran Jr., who earlier won the support of the Metropolitan Baltimore Area Council of the AFL-CIO, one of the five area councils making up the statewide federation.
The recommendation for Ms. Carey -- which negated the Baltimore council's earlier nod to Mr. Curran -- also was made at the afternoon meeting and backed by the delegates last night.
The group also endorsed incumbent Louis L. Goldstein for comptroller and Democratic incumbent Paul S. Sarbanes for U.S. Senate.
In the governor's race, union representatives backing Mr. Steinberg and Mr. Miedusiewski had hoped to split the vote three ways and spoil a Glendening endorsement.
A majority of two-thirds of the votes is necessary to bring a recommendation to the floor of the convention.
"There were three solid camps," said Edward A. Mohler, president of the umbrella group. "Mickey had a following; American Joe had one; and some felt there was wisdom that there should be no endorsement."
But the Glendening supporters prevailed.
"Parris did a big hunk of the work by reminding us of his record, which is excellent with labor," Mr. Mohler said.
A jubilant Mr. Glendening, just back from a bull roast fund-raiser in Queen Anne's County, arrived immediately after the session last night and addressed the crowd of about 300 delegates.
"It's been 20 years working with organized labor, and . . . I'm proud of it," Mr. Glendening said after thanking the crowd.
"I'm not one of those candidates who takes your endorsement and puts it in his back pocket and disappears on you," he said, vowing to pay attention to the concerns of organized labor in the private and public sectors.
He was applauded heartily, but the mention of his running mate, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, drew the biggest cheers of the night.
"It's been a good week," said Mr. Glendening, fresh off endorsements by the Washington Board of Trade, the largest business group in the Washington area, and the President's Roundtable, a Baltimore group of black businessmen.
Mr. Glendening was not the only candidate smiling last night.
"It is very unusual for the labor endorsement not to go to the incumbent, and I think it shows the strength of my campaign and the dissatisfaction with the incumbent," Ms. Carey said. "I'm very gratified to have the support of the working men and women of Maryland."
In the congressional races, the union umbrella group endorsed all Democrats: Steven R. Eastaugh in the 1st District; incumbent Benjamin L. Cardin in the 3rd; incumbent Albert R. Wynn in the 4th; incumbent Steny H. Hoyer in the 5th; and incumbent Kweisi Mfume in the 7th.
In the 2nd District, the group decided to back Del. Connie Galiazzo DeJuliis, wife of J. Ronald DeJuliis, business manager of the International Union of Operating Engineers and the Baltimore Port Council. Mrs. DeJuliis was chosen over eight other candidates, including Democratic Del. Gerry L. Brewster.
There were no endorsements in the 6th and 8th districts.
Mr. Mohler said the endorsements would mean that labor would staff telephone banks for candidates, print and distribute ballots, hold rallies and supply poll workers on election day, as well as contribute to the selected candidates' campaigns.
The Glendening endorsement was the latest blow to Mr. Steinberg. The one-time front-runner has suffered setbacks in the last two weeks because of a last-minute change in running mates after a long search, and after the last two senior members of his paid campaign staff quit.
Mr. Steinberg earlier had wrapped up support from United Food and Commercial Workers, AFL-CIO, a mainstay of support, RTC mainly owing to the affiliation of his brother-in-law and campaign adviser, Alvin Ackman, with the union.
In fact, the Steinberg campaign office in Annapolis has been in the United Food and Commercial Workers Union office on State Circle.
In May, Mr. Miedusiewski picked up his first big endorsement when the Baltimore Building & Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO -- which represents 19 craft unions and has about 12,000 members -- voted to back him for governor.
Mr. Miedusiewski was clearly disappointed that his earlier endorsement had been eclipsed by last night's voting.
"There have been heavy rumors that there would be some defections . . . to jump on the bandwagon of the front-runner" in the polls, Mr. Miedusiewski said. "You've got a lot of handicapping going on among the union leadership."
The defections are "really a breakdown in how the system is supposed to work," he said.