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Maryland Says Au Revoir to Parris

Governor Glendening leaves the Old Line State, and not a moment too soon.

11:00 PM, Jan 7, 2003 • By RACHEL DICARLO
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SOME POLITICIANS leave office basking in the glow of their accomplishments, loved and admired by their supporters. Not Parris Glendening. Maryland Democrats are in no mood for a love-fest with the outgoing Democratic governor. Not only did Glendening beat out Fife Symington (who was indicted for fraud) for the distinction of being the nation's most unpopular governor, but his personality and performance were enough to put a Republican in the statehouse for the first time in 36 years.

But it's not just the political class that despises Glendening. In liberal Maryland, where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1, his job performance garners a whopping 58 percent disapproval rating. He will depart office next week as one of the most reviled politicians in recent Maryland history.

It isn't hard to understand why. Glendening's legacy includes a gigantic $1.8 billion budget deficit, a court-overturned state redistricting map, a pension scam, a reversal for political purposes of his position on slot machines, and a refusal to build a much-needed inter-county connector. And the personal has been almost as bad as the political. Last year he lobbied the Maryland Board of Regents (all of whom he appointed) to give him a $375,000-a-year job after his term ended and divorced his wife of 20 years for a quickie marriage to a staffer 25 years his junior.

If Glendening has accomplished one thing as governor, he's reinforced the idea that a "culture of corruption"--as one federal judge put it--exists in Annapolis. Just last month three former Democratic legislators, who each donated thousands of dollars to his still-active political fund, were rewarded with high-paying state jobs. And the redistricting plan Glendening concocted with the help of senate president Mike Miller attempted to create more districts favorable to Democrats by snaking a district through four miles of the Patapsco River to hook up Baltimore City with the suburbs. When the plan wound up in court, Miller sparked a statewide furor when he called the court to, in his own words, "yell at [the judges]." The judges ruled the map unconstitutional and had the lines redrawn.

Petty, vindictive, and arrogant have been the buzzwords during the Glendening years, and he hasn't been afraid of getting even with those who dared cross him, including fellow Democrats.

Just ask congressman Ben Cardin, a Democrat who considered running against Glendening in 1998. His district was redrawn by Glendening, and half of his territory was replaced with chunks of Republican-heavy suburbs.

After running away from Glendening's record during her campaign to succeed him, Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend found herself skewered in the Washington Post the day after the election by the governor, who called hers the "worst run campaign in the country."

And during primary season this fall, Glendening elbowed his way into the comptroller's race. He pitted one of his political allies against popular former governor (and fellow Democrat) William Donald Schaefer. Glendening then used campaign funds to buy ads attacking Schaefer as a sexist and racist.

It wasn't Glendening's first try at race-baiting. In his 1998 campaign Glendening painted his opponent, Ellen Sauerbrey, as a racist by digging up an obscure "civil rights bill" she voted against. (It turned out the bill had nothing to do with civil rights, and many Democrats--including African Americans--had also voted against it.)

It all adds up to an unusual picture: a liberal governor who is unwanted and will be unmissed in arguably the most liberal state in the country.

Rachel DiCarlo is a staff assistant at The Weekly Standard.