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Mary Pat's muddle


THERE's trouble brewing over in Baltimore's newly re-jiggered 42nd legislative district, and City Council President Mary Pat Clarke is caught in the middle of the muddle.

The squiggles of reapportionment have scrunched Ms. Clarke's Tuscany-Canterbury precincts into the new district that now straddles the Baltimore County line and links with Pikesville.

That annexation leaves Ms. Clarke and two of her loyalists -- Dels. James Campbell and Maggie McIntosh -- plus incumbent Del. Leon Albin without a place to call home.

Sen. Barbara Hoffman and Del. Samuel I. "Sandy" Rosenberg have already filed as a two-member team, leaving the remaining three incumbents up the creek without a paddle.

In an apparent attempt to express her displeasure, Ms. Clarke filed for a seat on the district's Democratic State Central Committee, but at the last minute she simmered down and withdrew -- after angering, however, her soul mates at the Second District New Democratic Club.

NDC-2's president, John Laria, had already filed as a candidate for the State Central Committee. And in a handshake with Senator Hoffman and Delegate Rosenberg, Mr. Laria would have been given a free ride on their ticket along with Ms. MacIntosh and Mr. Campbell.

In another toothsome twist, Ms. Clarke is supporting American Joe Miedusiewski for governor. But her own political club -- NDC-2 -- is endorsing Prince George's County Executive Parris Glendening. Mr. Glendening also has the active support of Mayor Kurt Schmoke, whose job Ms. Clarke wants.

If Mr. Glendening wins the governorship with Mr. Schmoke's troops leading the charge in Baltimore, the Schmoke-Glendening alliance could be a mighty setback to Ms. Clarke's mayoral ambitions.

From his perch in the State House, a Governor Glendening could return the favor for Mr. Schmoke not only with support and people power but also with state money and municipal public works baubles.

To soften the grief, Ms. Clarke, in a sense, won her protocol standoff with Mr. Schmoke in their political duel to appoint a successor to Jacqueline McLean as comptroller.

The mayor was unable to yank enough elbows to salvage the appointment of Councilwoman Iris Reeves (D-5th), and the tug of loyalties on the council was a face-saver for Ms. Clarke.

Out in the precincts, too, there's unhappiness over Ms. Clarke's antic behavior. In the northeast's Third Councilmanic District, Ms. Clarke had encouraged a member of her City Hall staff, William B. Henry 2nd, to file for the House of Delegates. That has angered Del. Kenneth C. Montague Jr. (D-43rd), one of her early proteges and closest associates.

Much of Ms. Clarke's activity appears to be an early effort to

assemble the building blocks of her campaign for mayor.

Supporting Mr. Miedusiewski enables Ms. Clarke to campaign with him in East Baltimore, where he is popular. Mr. Henry gives her a coattail in the city's northeast corner. Ms. McIntosh and Mr. Campbell provide access in the northwest wedge of the city.

Much of the enmity between Ms. Clarke and Senator Hoffman derives from the bitter campaign in the 42nd District four years ago. Ms. Hoffman supported Del. Dolores Kelly for the House of Delegates, which Ms. Clarke complained left Mr. Campbell exposed and vulnerable.

In that campaign, "skinhead" hate literature was directed at Mr. Campbell, and charges of anti-Semitism were hurled in the other direction. The source of the personal invective was never proven. But to underline the importance of the Jewish vote, both Ms. Clarke and Ms. McIntosh recently joined Hadassah, an activist Jewish women's organization.

Yet there are other indications that Ms. Clarke has been so preoccupied with the swirl of problems at City Hall and in the precincts that she has neglected to engage herself in the futures of Ms. McIntosh and Mr. Campbell.

And her flash point candidacy for State Central Committee underlines the point. If she had been paying attention, she would have sniffed out the art of the deal and waited for the sample ballot as full payment.

Smart politicians don't stop and ask for directions.

Frank A. DeFilippo writes on Maryland politics from Owings Mills.

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