Is former Gov. William Donald Schaefer's flirtation with a run for mayor of Baltimore fizzling out?
Mr. Schaefer, who for months has been publicly coy about launching a mayoral campaign, last night failed to meet the deadline for switching his party affiliation.
His decision to remain a Democrat makes it increasingly remote that he will seek to reclaim the City Hall office that he held for 15 years.
The most likely scenario had Mr. Schaefer switching parties, breezing through the Republican primary, and challenging the winner of a hard-fought Democratic primary between Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and Council President Mary Pat Clarke in November's general election.
Mr. Schaefer still could run for mayor in the general election as an independent "petition candidate" or unaffiliated write-in candidate, or even as a Democrat in the Sept. 12 primary.
But the chances of him doing so are considered slim.
"I would not suggest the governor or anyone else run as a third party. It would be just about impossible to win because the Republican candidate, no matter who, will get 20 percent of the vote," said David R. Blumberg, chairman of the city Republican Party.
Mr. Schmoke shrugged off the significance of Mr. Schaefer's decision to remain a Democrat.
"He seems to want to be a factor in the election. What type of factor seems yet to be resolved," the mayor said. He added, "The possibility exists that he still may run."
Mr. Schaefer did not return phone calls yesterday.
Republican activists and business leaders have been urging Mr. Schaefer both publicly and privately for months to enter the mayoral race. Speculation increased as Mr. Schaefer, while holding out the possibility of trying to return to City Hall, sharpened his criticism of Mr. Schmoke in the past month, and complained that the mayor is "watching the city deteriorate."
As recently as last week, Mr. Schaefer said he had not made up his mind about a bid for mayor.
"I haven't ruled it in or out, haven't done anything. I'm just still -- what's the old saying? -- I'm thinking," Mr. Schaefer said.
The GOP "worked hard lobbying him," Mr. Blumberg said, acknowledging he was disappointed. Mr. Schaefer, a former two-term governor of Maryland, would have brought the party name recognition and a significantly better chance at capturing the seat.
But Mr. Blumberg added, "We will have a Republican primary for mayor whether Don Schaefer is in it or not."