Potential challengers to Gov. Parris N. Glendening's re-election now include a highly successful Montgomery County businessman and former Washington Redskins football player Raymond F. Schoenke Jr.
The 55-year-old insurance company president is a Special Olympics pioneer in Maryland and a generous contributor to the Democratic National Committee who has been active in national party affairs since the 1960s.
"Maryland is looking for leadership," Schoenke declared yesterday in a news release announcing the formation of an exploratory committee, "and politicians have failed us once again."
Schoenke's venture arises as yet another uncommon event in Maryland Democratic politics -- a shot-in-the-dark challenge, if only theoretical, to a sitting Democrat in a Democratic state.
His announcement came two days after another potential Glendening opponent, House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., withdrew from the 1998 race. But the governor still faces opposition from Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann, who announced her candidacy this summer.
And still to come is a decision, probably early next month, from Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, the 3rd District congressman who many believe would be the governor's strongest opponent. Cardin continues to seek political endorsements to cushion what would inevitably be a divisive primary race.
Schoenke's trial balloon went up with a broad denunciation of Glendening's record.
Citing a string of "missed opportunities" in business development, education reform and the downsizing of state government, Schoenke said in the news release that he would deal with such matters in a "bold, hands-on" fashion.
Schoenke was not available for further comment yesterday. The potential candidate's daughter and spokeswoman, Holly Schoenke, said she could not offer specifics on the failures attributed by her father to Glendening and his administration. If Schoenke decides to run, she said, he would grant interviews and answer questions in detail.
She would not say who was on the exploratory committee. "It's just a small group that will check out all the factors" bearing on his potential candidacy, she said.
She said she did not know if her father supported Glendening when he was elected in 1994, but Glendening appointed Schoenke to the Governor's Commission on Gun Violence in 1995.
Glendening's campaign chairman, Michael D. Barnes, said that,
given Schoenke's evaluation of the governor, he could not be familiar with Glendening's record.
"Any fair assessment of the achievements of the administration would show that it's been a highly successful three years on the issues Marylanders care about," Barnes said. "Tremendous progress has been made in education, environmental protection, fighting crime and reducing taxes. Across the board, the record of Governor Glendening is outstanding."
Although he has no experience in public office, Schoenke is a longtime Democratic activist.
In national Democratic affairs, he was a co-chairman of the party's business council.
During the election cycle that ended in 1996, he contributed more than $127,000 to the Democratic National Committee.
In 1972, he chaired a group called Athletes for McGovern, supporting the party's presidential nominee, George McGovern, and he was national chairman of Artists and Athletes for President Jimmy Carter in 1980. He also worked for the re-election of President Clinton last year.
Schoenke has also been active in local affairs, leading an effort to reduce the hazards of the Oaks Landfill near his home in Laytonsville. He was president of the Greater Laytonsville Civic Association.
In the 1960s, Schoenke helped to bring the Special Olympics to Maryland and was its mid-Atlantic director. He was recognized for his commitment to the mentally retarded with an award from the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation's "Kennedy Family Award." One member of that family is Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.
Born in Hawaii and a graduate of Southern Methodist University, he was an academic and athletic All-American. He played in the National Football League for 12 years, 10 of them with the Redskins from 1966 to 1975. In 1987, he was named to the "50th Anniversary Greatest Redskin Team."
Pub Date: 8/21/97