MARYLAND'S powerful Democratic Party is breaking apart. Prominent leaders are defecting to Republican gubernatorial nominee Ellen R. Sauerbrey. Other key elected leaders refuse to endorse Democratic incumbent Parris N. Glendening and instead play footsie with Ms. Sauerbrey.
Unless the party energizes its members by Nov. 3, Democrats could lose the governorship for the first time in 32 years.
The irony is that so many solidly liberal Democrats have cast their lot with a dedicated conservative like Ms. Sauerbrey.
The most prominent defector so far is former Lt. Gov. Melvin A. "Mickey" Steinberg.
He, like others who have strayed from the Glendening camp, point to the governor's lack of sincerity in making pledges to TC them and his habit of politicizing every decision.
That may be too harsh an assessment, but enough well-known politicians have expressed disillusionment with Mr. Glendening that it is having an impact in this year's campaign.
Prince George's County Executive Wayne K. Curry feels that way. So does Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke. Ditto Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann. None of them has endorsed the governor, the leader of their state party.
Instead, Ms. Rehrmann and Mr. Schmoke have met privately with Ms. Sauerbrey. They may sit out this election, depriving Mr. Glendening of key leaders in a crucial get-out-the-vote effort.
Republicans, still badly outnumbered in Maryland, have been galvanized by Ms. Sauerbrey. They came out in droves to support her four years ago and could vote in far greater numbers this time.
In contrast, few Democrats seem enthusiastic about Mr. Glendening's four-year performance. He has gotten little credit for cautiously steering the state in a progressive direction. He lacks star appeal.
Mr. Glendening has little more than a month to reunite his party and spark excitement among the Democratic faithful. It's not enough to remind voters of his achievements in education and the environment. Mr. Glendening must tell voters what he seeks to achieve in the next four years, if given the chance.
Ms. Sauerbrey has a clear, crisp vision. So far, we haven't seen that from Mr. Glendening.
Pub Date: 9/30/98