By Kirsten Marie Frese and Kevin Mcnulty
DUNDALK, Md. – Rosaline Lundsford was at home, remembering the day nearly three decades ago when former Baltimore Mayor William Donald Schaefer interviewed her for a job.
Because she had worked on his 1971 mayoral campaign, Schaefer told Lundsford she could have her pick of jobs in city government; she chose City Hall switchboard operator. She has worked on every campaign of Schaefer’s since.
This time, Lundsford, 68 and retired, is hanging signs for Schaefer, who surprised many when he announced his candidacy for state comptroller on July 6 – the last day to file – after the sudden death of long-time Comptroller Louis Goldstein.
Lundsford is not the only returning volunteer. Lainy LeBow-Sachs, a former scheduler and spokeswoman for Schaefer, and Mark Wasserman, Schaefer’s former secretary of economic development, have been answering media calls, scheduling events and developing campaign strategies. Michael Golden, who worked in the governor’s press office and as an agency spokesman, is his campaign spokesman now.
“The governor has always been able to command an unusual amount of loyalty [and] can turn out people from all phases of his life,” Wasserman said.
Whether or not that staff loyalty will translate to voter loyalty on Tuesday remains to be seen. But if polls are any indication, Schaefer, 76, may easily beat GOP nominee Larry Epstein for the state tax collector job.
Schaefer led Epstein 57 percent to 29 percent in a survey of 1,205 likely voters conducted Oct. 23-25 by Potomac Survey Research of Bethesda.
This is Epstein’s second bid for the seat. The 50-year-old accountant from Glyndon lost to Goldstein in 1990.
Epstein said Schaefer shouldn’t take anything for granted. He said the Democrat lacks the technical accounting background needed for the job and is only running because he “just likes the limelight.”
Schaefer, who refers to Epstein as a “nice young boy,” said his own reasons for seeking the office of comptroller are the same as they have been for four decades: to help people.
“He really cares, especially people trying to make something work,” said former Baltimore City Council President Mary Pat Clarke.
But, she added, “he may want to punch them out [at times].”THE VOLCANO
Casey Cole, 26, knows something about Schaefer’s temper. He remembered receiving a handwritten letter from Schaefer in February 1991, when he was a 12th grader at Severn School.
“Read your inaccurate, frustrated letter to the editor Sunday. You wouldn’t understand global economy because you most likely never left Severna Park,” said the note from Schaefer.
Schaefer’s missive was reacting to Cole’s letter, which had been published in a local newspaper. It criticized Schaefer’s spending on trips to Europe and on the governor’s mansion.
“He was pretty much saying I had never been out of Maryland and still gave me no answers to my questions,” said Cole, who now lives in Colorado. “It was kind of funny, him addressing me like I was older.”
Wasserman said the governor “was reacting to severe tensions” at the time – including the state’s economic depression and Schaefer’s drooping job performance rating with voters. Mason-Dixon Political/Media Research Inc. showed 68 percent of Marylanders rating Schaefer as doing good or excellent in January 1990 to an all-time low of only 16 percent rating him as good or excellent in March 1993.
“Even he would say he might have overdone it,” Wasserman said of Schaefer’s letter.
“He’s like a volcano: sometimes it’s very placid, sometimes it erupts,” said Walter Orlinsky, former president of the Baltimore City Council.
“His way or the highway came out at many times,” said Melvin “Mickey” Steinberg, Schaefer’s lieutenant governor. But, Steinberg added: “He is a tremendous motivator. I have never worked harder in my life.”
Steinberg served with Schaefer during his two terms as governor, and was in office when Schaefer helped bring the $125 million professional baseball stadium to Camden Yards and pledged state money for what would become the $220 million Baltimore Ravens Stadium. Both are in Baltimore.
Schaefer was elected to the Baltimore City Council in 1955 and was elected council president in 1967. In 1971, Schaefer was elected mayor, where he served until elected governor in 1986.
Schaefer sees his revitalization of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, building up city pride and bringing industries back to Maryland’s famous city as his greatest accomplishments as mayor.
But political experience isn’t as important as financial knowledge for this job, Epstein said. He said the comptroller is a technical office and accused Schaefer of seeking it to get attention.
“After four years [of private life], he realized people don’t come around anymore,” Epstein said.THE RETURN
Schaefer agrees he did not get “the same self-satisfaction in the private sector” as in elected office.
He recently told a University of Maryland class about his last day as governor in January 1995, when people were telling him how great he was and that no one would forget him. But, Schaefer said, when Glendening was sworn in, he left the State House alone.
After leaving Annapolis, Schaefer worked as counsel at the law firm of Gordon, Feinblatt, Rothman, Hoffberger & Hollander of Baltimore while teaching at both the University of Maryland, College Park, and Johns Hopkins University.
Despite criticisms about his motivations for running, Schaefer said he is the most qualified candidate.
“See what I did? I turned around a city that lost its pride to [become] the best-known city,” Schaefer said.
And supporters say the bid could not have come at a better time. “He never married, never did anything else and has paid the price,” LeBow-Sachs said. “Louie gave Schaefer a new life.”
Schaefer is primarily campaigning on his four decades of public office, saying he knows what’s required to do the job.
He said his philosophy of government has always been doing little things for the people. He says big things will get done, but you have to help the people.
He said he would do this as comptroller by maintaining the state’s AAA bond rating, “prudently spend[ing] money we have and look[ing] out for taxpayers.”
Schaefer is also concerned with the state’s economic development and said he plans to make Maryland “a better place to do business.”
Epstein said Schaefer is a reckless spender. “Schaefer didn’t handle the finances of the state [as governor] and when he did, he didn’t handle them well,” Epstein said.
But Schaefer and his supporters disagree.
“Schaefer knows where every trash truck in the city goes and every trash can that didn’t get dumped into it, and how much it costs,” Clarke said.
Schaefer said he is already experienced at one piece of the job: serving on the Board of Public Works, which consists of the governor, comptroller and treasurer. The powerful board sells and approves state bonds and major state contracts.
Schaefer said he would keep the current comptroller staff, “a competent office with good people.”
Epstein argued Schaefer will be “depending totally on those in the office to get him through.” He added, “If they left, where would he be? If they didn’t like him, how [would] he keep his office running sound?” -30-