By Kate Alexander
WASHINGTON – Gov. Parris Glendening adamantly denied any presidential aspirations Thursday even as he continued cultivating his role as a national policy leader at a conference of corporate executives in Washington.
Glendening said he was “absolutely not” positioning himself to challenge President Bush for the White House in 2004.
Rumors of a possible presidential bid surfaced after a columnist for The (Baltimore) Sun suggested on Jan. 25 that Glendening’s role as chairman of the National Governors’ Association and his “progressive” agenda were part of a strategy to become the front-runner for the Democratic nomination.
Glendening laughed off the possibility and said he was looking forward to returning to teaching, most likely, after he completes his tenure as governor in 2002.
He noted that he sent a postcard to the Sun columnist, Barry Rascovar, wishing him a swift recovery from his “flight of fancy.”
Rascovar said Thursday he received a “chicken-scrawl” card from the governor, part of which he could read. He reiterated his position that Glendening is angling for a national office, saying only the future will tell how fanciful his suggestion was.
The road to that office, though, may first lead to a different presidency — of the University System of Maryland, said Montgomery County political commentator Blair Lee.
“Glendening is not presidential material,” Lee said, but he is “looking for a steppingstone to a Cabinet position” and the University System is as good a stone as any.
Glendening’s denials came after he discussed his Smart Growth initiatives at a National Press Club luncheon of about 300 private-sector executives who deal with state and local governments.
The conference’s sponsor, Governing magazine, said Glendening is considered a thought leader among the nation’s governors, particularly because of his role in launching a national Smart Growth movement.
“His leadership on a number of issues. . .places him at the forefront of the nation’s governors,” said Elder Witt, deputy publisher of Governing, which last year recognized Glendening as one of its public officials of the year.
The governor spoke extensively about the economic benefits of his Smart Growth initiatives and the role of his quality-of-life agenda in attracting new, high-technology business to the state.
Using his leadership position in the governors’ association, Glendening has taken his Smart Growth mantra to the national level and has led the association to develop a “governors’ strategy for growth and quality of life.”
Even after his yearlong term with the governors’ association is over this summer, Glendening will continue to occupy a national platform when he becomes the new president of the Council of State Governments in December.