ANNAPOLIS – Baltimore County Executive C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger said he would consider a run for governor this fall if Gov. Parris Glendening runs into trouble and fellow Democrats ask him to step in to the gap.
But few Democrats appeared ready Thursday to mount a draft- Dutch movement.
“I think he’s done a great job as a county executive,” Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller, D-Prince George’s, said of Ruppersberger.
“At some point in time in the future he’ll be running for governor. But this year I think Gov. Glendening will win the primary and beat (Republican) Ellen Sauerbrey,” Miller said.
Ruppersberger, who said Wednesday that he would consider a gubernatorial run if all the elements fell into place and he was approached, insisted Thursday that his only consideration now is re-election.
But he added that he would “never say never” and contends that he would be the party’s best hope if Glendening was crippled. A Glendening campaign spokesman said that won’t happen.
“The only kind of trouble the governor is in now is fighting tobacco and the National Rifle Association and the organized gambling lobby,” said Peter Hamm, the spokesman. “He has a terrific record to run on.”
In fact, Ruppersberger commended Glendening on Wednesday for “working so effectively with the Baltimore County delegation” during the 1998 General Assembly session.
But the two have not always been on such good terms.
Ruppersberger was part of an anti-Glendening meeting at millionaire Stewart Bainum Jr.’s Chevy Chase home in 1996, with Montgomery County Executive Douglas Duncan and Harford County Executive Eileen Rehrmann.
Rehrmann has since mounted an aggressive Democratic campaign for governor against Glendening. Duncan, like Ruppersberger, is much happier with Glendening these days, saying the governor has answered the needs of Montgomery County.
A recent poll by Mason-Dixon Campaign Polling and Strategy Inc. showed Democrats supporting Glendening over Rehrmann by 45 percent to 15 percent, with 32 percent of the voters undecided.
But Sidney Kramer, a former Montgomery County executive, said he thinks Glendening will have to work hard to win the primary election.
“I think there’s a split in the party,” Kramer said. “If you look at the polls, it becomes obvious that there are people who question Glendening’s integrity.”
Kramer said Glendening needs the “vigorous support” of both Prince George’s County Executive Wayne Curry and Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke to win.
But The (Baltimore) Sun recently reported that Schmoke had been asked to host a fund raiser for Rehrmann — which Schmoke refused to comment on. And Curry was harshly critical of Glendening in the waning days of the legislative session when a $140 million school construction package for the county was in jeopardy.
A spokesman for Schmoke said the mayor told staff he will have nothing to say about the gubernatorial race until next week.
Miller, once a harsh critic of Glendening’s, said it does not matter who endorses Rehrmann because the governor will win the primary.
A spokesman for Rehrmann’s campaign, meanwhile, said she is still focused on Glendening and not worried about the possibility of a Ruppersberger candidacy.
While Glendening has been criticized by fellow Democrats in the past, Hamm said the governor has made an effort to work to improve his relationships with opponents within the party.
“There are certain forces who are being encouraged to run by the same big enemies the governor has made because he’s taking them on,” said Hamm. “The NRA, the gambling lobby; they want to see him suffer.”