James T. Brady, who resigned recently as Maryland's secretary of economic and business development, is exploring a race for governor this year against his former boss, Gov. Parris N. Glendening.
The 57-year-old former businessman has been discussing with associates the possibility of running as an independent, hoping to present himself as an alternative to Glendening, if he is renominated by the Democrats, and the likely Republican contender, Ellen R. Sauerbrey.
In an interview yesterday, Brady acknowledged: "I am looking at it as I'm looking at a number of other opportunities that have nothing to do with the public sector."
He said he would decide whether to run by the end of June.
While an independent candidacy poses extreme organizational and financial problems, Brady said he finds remarkable weakness in the leading major-party candidates -- weakness that could make the effort worthwhile.
"The negatives for Glendening and Sauerbrey in the polls are astonishingly high. You'd almost have to be Nixon in the middle of Watergate to be that bad," he said. "Pollsters tell you negatives are the most important figures in a poll because it's almost impossible to turn them around. Negatives are things people feel really deeply about."
Brady believes general unhappiness with politics -- and specific complaints about Sauerbrey and Glendening -- might make voters anxious to break the habit of choosing leaders from the two majority parties. Still, many political activists have chosen sides by now, and many wealthy campaign contributors may have given close to the maximum contributions allowed by law.
Without offering names, Brady said he thought he could count on a network of able financial backers. If so, he could the test the capacity of donors as Sauerbrey, Glendening and several others have been relentlessly mining the usual business sources for at least two years.
That circumstance, among others, left some observers yesterday wondering how a practical businessman could even think about such a race.
"He must have an incredible ego," said Donald F. Norris, a political science professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Independents, Norris said, have had a notable lack of success almost everywhere they've run.
"It's a system based on two well-established parties," Norris said. "The history of independent candidates is not very good. By and large, the two candidates of the main parties are going to pick up 80-90 percent of the vote."
But if Brady did enter the race, he might alter its chemistry even if he did not win.
Some observers speculated yesterday that Sauerbrey would benefit because her core vote is more passionately committed.
But the Glendening side argued Brady would merely rob her of anti-Glendening supporters. Indeed, Sauerbrey asked Brady to run for lieutenant governor on her ticket -- an option he rejected.
"I wouldn't write the guy off," said Edgar Silver, a former judge and long-time student of Maryland politics. "He never impressed me as a guy who goes on an ego trip."
Glendening's campaign chose not to address the possibility that he would face yet another opponent -- and a former Cabinet secretary, to boot. "The governor is concentrating on running the state," said his campaign spokesman Peter Hamm.
Other gubernatorial candidates' camps were almost gleeful.
"It's a tremendous slap in the face to Parris that one of his former hand picked Cabinet secretaries would publicly speculate about running against him," said Carol Hirschburg, communications director for the Sauerbrey campaign.
"Gee, it seems like there are a lot of people unhappy with the current governor," said George F. Harrison, campaign spokesman for Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann, another Democrat.
Said Charles I. Ecker, the Howard County Republican: "Jim Brady's a wonderful man. He did a good job with economic development at [the state Department of Business and Economic Development] and I hated to see him leave."
If Brady does run, he will face a series of obstacles and deadlines. Getting on the ballot as an independent requires that he obtain about 75,000 signatures or 3 percent of Maryland's registered voters, who currently total about 2.5 million.
A Democrat now, he would have to re-register as an independent by June 22. He then would have to file a declaration of intent to run as an independent with the state election board by July 6. Finally, he would have to file the signatures along with signers' addresses and dates of birth by Aug. 3.
The logistics of such an effort would be considerable, but there are firms that specialize in providing the service -- for a fee. The up-side of the equation: Brady would gain some name recognition as he and his troops worked at gaining the signatures -- a campaign in itself.
Brady said yesterday that his deliberations started after his parting critique of Glendening's leadership drew favorable comment from a number of business leaders.
He and the governor disagreed over a number of issues during the three years he served in the Glendening administration, the most recent of which was the governor's decision to delay construction of the Intercounty Connector in Montgomery and Prince George's counties, a transportation route businessmen have sought for years.
A former managing partner with the Baltimore office of Arthur Andersen LLP, one of the nation's largest consulting and auditing firms, Brady was hailed by businessmen at the moment of his April 28 resignation as the rare state Cabinet member who understood business and who would fight for it in Annapolis.
Pub Date: 6/04/98