Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke took an important step toward what might end up being only an informal endorsement of Gov. Parris N. Glendening yesterday, praising the governor's recent positions on state court funding and mass transit.
Schmoke, a former ally who has feuded with Glendening for two years, said in a statement that the governor's stances on the two issues were signs of a "leader with a positive vision for the future."
"I see nothing but very positive things resulting from his comments regarding the courts and mass transit system enhancements," Schmoke said in a statement released by his spokesman. "I'm very pleased with the environment created over the past couple of days."
The mayor's comments were the latest development in what has become a highly public effort by Glendening to bring Schmoke back into his fold.
The Sun reported yesterday that Glendening had decided to support a state takeover of the circuit court system, a move sought by Schmoke and other local leaders, and one that would save Baltimore about $9 million a year.
Schmoke was not aware of the governor's support for the court proposal until it appeared in the newspaper, an aide to the mayor said.
Even yesterday, there was no direct contact between representatives of the mayor and governor, a reflection of the depth of their estrangement.
Schmoke stopped short of an endorsement but said his aides would be talking to the Glendening campaign about the next step.
In earlier comments, Schmoke suggested that he might back the Democratic team running statewide but refrain from a specific endorsement of Glendening.
But the mayor signaled yesterday that he would be willing to appear publicly with the governor and take on a role in his re-election effort. "Our political staff people will continue to work on the specifics of my involvement in the campaign," Schmoke said.
Not surprisingly, the mayor's comments were welcomed by the Glendening campaign, which has struggled to unify the Democratic Party against the challenge from Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey.
"The governor and the lieutenant governor are going to be working very hard to continue to bring Maryland together," said Glendening campaign spokesman Peter S. Hamm. "The governor wants very much to work with Mayor Schmoke to address the important issues facing the people of Baltimore and all of the people of Maryland."
Echoing comments made Friday by Schmoke, Glendening said he supports the court takeover, which would cost the state about $73 million, as a way to free up local funds to put more police on the street. While the state pays the cost of circuit court judges and some other court costs, local governments bear the majority of the expense of running the system.
Earlier this week, the governor also sketched out a plan to expand the state's mass transit system, an idea that prompted a favorable response from Schmoke.
In a gubernatorial race that polls show to be a dead heat, Schmoke's support could help generate enthusiasm and increase turnout for the Nov. 3 election among voters in Baltimore, one of the three jurisdictions that Glendening carried four years ago.
Though he was clearly trying to send a conciliatory signal to the mayor with his comments on the circuit court takeover, Glendening maintained yesterday that he was not seeking to cut an endorsement deal. At a Democratic Party rally in Prince George's County, the governor noted that he had supported the idea of a state takeover of the circuit courts for 15 years.
Asked about the politics of such a position, he said, "We want everyone to work together."
Pub Date: 10/04/98