Comptroller's revolving door Three in a week: Clumsy handling of appointment led to Schaefer's ascendancy as favorite in elections.


IN just six days, three different individuals occupied the state comptroller's chair -- and a fourth emerged as the leader to win a four-year term this fall.

Marylanders are unaccustomed to such upheaval and uncertainty in that office. After all, Louis L. Goldstein had held that job for a record-breaking 40 years. His death July 3 -- just before the filing deadline for candidates -- set in motion a chain of unparalleled events.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening tried to find a prestigious official to fill Mr. Goldstein's seat on an interim basis, and then run for a full term. When he was rebuffed, the governor turned to his campaign chairman, Michael D. Barnes, a former congressman from Kensington.

That process mightily annoyed William Donald Schaefer, the former governor and mayor, who viewed himself as a logical successor to Mr. Goldstein. Mr. Schaefer promptly filed as a candidate.

Instead of elected officials rallying behind the governor's choice, Democrats rushed to support Mr. Schaefer. The governor was forced to regroup; Mr. Barnes quickly withdrew from the race, also resigning as interim comptroller.

A temporary chief tax collector was named -- longtime Goldstein assistant Robert L. Swann. The governor then endorsed Mr. Schaefer for a full term as comptroller. The whirlwind of activity subsided.

Mr. Schaefer begins with an outpouring of support, even from some who opposed him as governor. He is not only colorful but experienced. He also understands the independent role envisioned under the state constitution for the comptroller. And he is aware of the need for someone to step into Mr. Goldstein's shoes as Maryland's Goodwill Ambassador.

First, though, comes the campaign. Mr. Schaefer must win the primary and general elections. But with his large army of supporters, he starts off light years ahead of his rivals.

Pub Date: 7/13/98

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