ANNAPOLIS – If Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend is elected governor in 2002, she will be bucking a trend.
No lieutenant governor has ever been elected governor in Maryland.
Granted, the office has a short history in the state, and one No. 2 was appointed governor. Plus — no lieutenant governor in the state has ever been a Kennedy.
Townsend, daughter of the late Robert F. Kennedy, is another politician in a family that has held sway in national politics for more than 40 years – longer than Maryland has had a lieutenant governor.
Townsend’s spokesman declined to comment on her political future, or the state’s political history, however she has been widely touted as a gubernatorial candidate in 2002, when Gov. Parris N. Glendening is ineligible to run again.
Although the position of lieutenant governor existed for four years in the mid-19th century, its modern incarnation was born in 1970 after Gov. Spiro Agnew was elected Richard Nixon’s vice president.
The General Assembly created the post to formalize the order of succession. Since then, only five people have served as lieutenant governor, including Townsend.
Blair Lee III, the state’s first lieutenant governor, did serve two years as governor, but was not elected to that post. Gov. Marvin Mandel appointed Lee to the post while Mandel was facing charges of corruption and dealing with a messy divorce. Lee later lost his re-election bid to Harold R. Hughes.
Samuel Bogley was Hughes’ first lieutenant governor, but he was dropped from the ticket when Hughes ran for a second term.
Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. was lieutenant governor during Hughes’ second term, but decided to run for his current position in 1986.
“My heart always was in practicing law . . . I never gave (being governor) a lot of thought.” Curran said.
The only lieutenant governor to run a gubernatorial campaign was Melvin “Mickey” Steinberg, Gov. William Donald Schaefer’s lieutenant governor, and he was soundly drubbed in the Democratic primary in 1992 by Glendening.
Maryland’s lack of a lieutenant governor is an extraordinary feature of its political history, said R.J. Rockefeller, a historian at the Maryland State Archives. It’s also likely, Rockefeller said, that the office is not as prominent because it is relatively new. Yet that holds it’s own advantages, he said. Because the office is newer, it is less rigidly designed than older lieutenant governor’s offices, giving individuals the chance to shape their own roles, Rockefeller said. Townsend has taken advantage of this to become an active and involved lieutenant governor, Rockefeller said, thanks, in part, to Glendening’s willingness to share the limelight. Townsend seems to have benefited from her work, and the attention. A recent poll by Potomac Survey Research showed Townsend is popular and well positioned for the governor’s race in 2002. None of the other likely candidates – Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan, Republican U.S. Rep. Robert Ehrlich of Timonium or Prince George’s County Executive Wayne Curry – has confirmed their plans either. In the Potomac poll, only Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley came close to Townsend’s level of popularity. Mayors of Baltimore have done a little better than lieutenant governors in winning the state’s top office. Four Baltimore mayors have been elected Maryland governor — the earliest was Thomas Swann in 1856 and the most recent was William Donald Schaefer in 1986. Steinberg said lieutenant governors nationwide have been successful candidates. “It’s a natural stepping stone to a higher office, just like a vice president,” Steinberg said. An office that in 2000 didn’t do so well, either. – 30 – CNS-2-9-01