IN OUR LAST episode of "Upstairs/Downstairs at the State House," Gov. Parris N. Glendening thought he heard footsteps on the first floor and dispatched his minions to find out just what House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. was up to.
Taylor was merely raising a little money for what he insisted would be his re-election campaign for the House of Delegates. But it appears Glendening was right to have suspected that Taylor is seriously considering a bid for governor in 1998.
The speaker has put a national media consultant on his campaign payroll and is in final negotiations for hiring a national pollster and a political operative with close ties to former Gov. William Donald Schaefer.
Taylor has put on retainer Politics Inc., a Washington-based media consulting firm, and is adding to his team Cooper & Secrest Associates, a political polling firm in Alexandria, Va.
He also is hiring Paul E. Schurick -- a public affairs consultant, part-time Maryland Tax Court judge and Schaefer's former chief of staff -- as political director to honcho scheduling and the all-important "message."
Through it all, Taylor denies he's running for anything except re-election.
"I'm not eyeing up anything," he said.
Taylor explains it away simply: Politics Inc. is "doing research and writing on issues not campaign stuff"; Alan Secrest is "doing some issues polling for me"; and Schurick is coming aboard to supplement the effort by the "bare-bones staff" in the speaker's office.
"I'm simply trying to keep abreast of the public issues in the state of Maryland," Taylor said, stressing his oft-made point that House speaker is a "statewide position" with demands exceeding those made on an Allegany County legislator.
So far, Taylor's campaign committee has paid more than $5,300 to Politics Inc. for the reading, writing and research.
Politics is, you may recall, a firm run by David J. Heller, who handled media for former state Sen. American Joe Miedusiewski's 1994 gubernatorial primary campaign, including a series of stinging radio ads lampooning then-candidate Glendening.
More recently, Heller worked for former Del. Elijah E. Cummings in his successful spring bid to succeed Kweisi Mfume as congressman from Maryland's 7th District and also for Rep. Albert R. Wynn's re-election effort in the 4th District.
Secrest, who is well known for Democratic gubernatorial and congressional campaign work, particularly in the South, also had a piece of the 1994 governor's race in Maryland. He was the pollster in the ill-fated campaign of former Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg, who like Miedusiewski lost to Glendening in that year's Democratic primary.
Schurick, who served as one of Schaefer's press secretaries, explained his new role for Taylor thus: "I'm going to be helping him ensure that his statewide interests and statewide visions are properly set and communicated -- that he works with the right people on the right issues."
The speaker's efforts no doubt are being spurred by a variety of would-be supporters whispering in his ear to run against Glendening.
But with 21 months to go before the Democratic primary, money could become a problem for him, given what he has bitten off already.
Taylor has a little over $237,000 in his campaign coffers, according to finance statements filed last week with the state election board. (By contrast, his counterpart, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, has more than $418,000 in reserve.)
Glendening, known for his prodigious fund-raising, has raked in just over $1 million, but has the ability to drum up much, much more.
Nevertheless, it is clear Taylor is closer than he has ever been to joining the gubernatorial fray.
Grasmick holds Ruppersberger fund-raiser
In the "worth noting" department:
State school Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick held a $100-a-head fund-raiser for Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger at her Hunt Valley home last month.
Grasmick, a former Baltimore County teacher, gathered about 60 professional women Nov. 17 for the Ruppersberger campaign -- an event that has prompted some speculation about 1998.
Ruppersberger has said he is planning to run for re-election, though he has not ruled out a run for governor.
Grasmick, who is married to lumber magnate Louis J. Grasmick, a former big-money backer of William Donald Schaefer, also has been touted as a possible candidate for elected office at, say, the State House.
Pub Date: 12/03/96