To Government House we go Welcome: The Glendenings' holiday open house gives Marylanders a chance to tell the governor what they would like.


Because of term limits, Gov. Parris N. Glendening doesn't have to worry about winning another race for the state's top elected job, or about asking people for their support anymore.

But some Marylanders want his support -- be it for night school, traffic roundabouts or even car exports to Kenya. And they had a chance to ask for it yesterday as they lined up to meet the governor for his annual holiday open house in Annapolis.

Nearly 1,000 people descended on Government House to meet Glendening and his wife, Frances Hughes Glendening, and to see the artwork, furniture and Christmas trees that adorn the mansion -- the governor's official residence.

Most merely chatted with the governor about the kind of things you talk about with a politician you don't know very well, like the weather and his successful re-election. Glendening was cheery about both, reminding many that the chilly wind and rain isn't that bad for December, and thanking those who said they voted for him twice, or even just once.

And then there were the requests.

Native Kenyan Anthony Tenai wanted to know if the governor could do anything about the lack of U.S. auto exports to his country.

"You cannot find an American car in Kenya," the University of Baltimore graduate student lamented minutes before shaking hands with Glendening. "I wouldn't mind being the first to say, 'We can do it.' Maybe it's something they never thought about. It's a market that's just waiting to be tapped."

Glendening hadn't pondered this international matter, and Tenai didn't get the answer he wanted.

"It must be the lack of a market," the governor said, adding with a smile: "Because we export all around the world!"

In the spirit of the holidays, others beseeched the governor to be generous with the state's money.

One college system official wanted to make sure the governor's budget would include an additional $3 million she and others were seeking for University of Maryland's University College, which specializes in part-time educational opportunities for working adults.

After getting an apparent "yes" from Glendening, she declined to speak with a reporter -- or give her name.

The mayor of Mount Rainier sheepishly asked the governor for some additional funding for a traffic roundabout project in his Prince George's County town.

"I wouldn't do this at a social event like this," the mayor, Fredrick J. Sissine, said later. Sporting a blue windbreaker, a red backpack and a handlebar mustache, Sissine said all he was looking for was $100,000, maybe $150,000 -- soon. "We need some help with it very quickly."

Glendening directed nearly every request to staffers waiting nearby with notebooks in hand.

There was the supporter who asked him to record a message to the Latino community, and an artist from Taiwan who wanted his help so she can continue making drawings in this country. The governor made few promises.

"We don't make any commitments," he said after the three-hour open house had ended.

Without commitments, visitors still got hot cider and cookies during their brief stays at Government House. They listened to musical performances by student groups, like the Wilde Lake High School Woodwind Quintet and the choir from Perry Hall High School, studied the mansion's ornate paintings, and reviewed Christmas ornaments made by schoolchildren from around the state.

Even Harvey and Anna Mercer -- Severn retirees and die-hard Republicans who twice voted for Glendening challenger Ellen R. Sauerbrey -- had a good time.

They came to see the house, the couple said -- but Harvey had some words for Glendening.

"I'm looking forward to those tax increases you've promised," he wryly told Glendening, at which the governor put on a confused face and responded: "Tax increases?"

Mercer said later he expects Glendening, a "typical Democrat," to raise taxes during the next four years.

"But I told him I loved him," said Mercer, 65. "As Christians, we don't have any choice."

Pub Date: 12/14/98

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