- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 31, 2000

Gov. Parris N. Glendening rarely misses a chance to put Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend in the spotlight when he announces an accomplishment.

Heralding their win on legislation requiring gun locks, Mr. Glendening and Mrs. Townsend playfully and purposefully told reporters in April that the next administration would continue its fight to mandate high-technology gun safety.

This alliance between a mild-mannered policy wonk and personable political heir may prove to be the most harmonious and symbiotic governor-lieutenant governor relationship in Maryland history.

And unlike lieutenant governors before her, it could put her on track to succeed her boss when he ends his second and final term in 2003.

"Because of the peculiarity of the office the lieutenant governor serves at the pleasure of the governor there has to be a personal sympatico or political arrangement or both," said Herb Smith, professor of government at Western Maryland College in Westminster. "In this case there's both."

That explains why Mrs. Townsend already has succeeded in becoming the most visible lieutenant governor since Maryland re-established the office in 1970 even if she does not become the first modern-day lieutenant governor to make that post a springboard to the state's top office.

Her oratory can be distractingly unnatural as witnessed during a community policing conference in Baltimore last week when she pointedly raised her arm even as she read scripted remarks about crime going down.

Speeches are important to present programs and encourage people, Mrs. Townsend said, but what she really enjoys is "hearing what is going on in communities … listening to what other people say."

And her forte, observers say, is her ability to connect with people in personal encounters.

"She has the Clinton strength without the Clinton pathology," said Mr. Smith, who has followed Mrs. Townsend's political career since her failed bid for Congress in the 1980s.

Since 1998, when she took center stage in campaign spots that helped push Mr. Glendening ahead in a close race against Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey, Mrs. Townsend's political trajectory has climbed.

Soon after their re-election, Mr. Glendening added business and economic development to Mrs. Townsend's duties.

"I haven't given anything to her, she's earned it," Mr. Glendening said in a recent interview.

Mr. Glendening and Mrs. Townsend meet together in his office once a week to discuss policy. Typically although not always they agree, he said.

Declining to disclose where they've differed, he said he chose Mrs. Townsend as a running mate because she shares, and would continue, his core "progressive" agenda on education and social issues and aggressive but centrist approaches to combating crime.

Now her own political future may rest on the bully pulpit and responsibilities that Mr. Glendening more than his predecessors has shared.

"She'll have to run on her record," said Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, one of many possible Democratic contenders.

He and others who would like to be governor, now call on her, too, to be accountable when they criticize the governor's policies.

When abuse of juveniles was uncovered at state-run boot camps last fall, Mr. Glendening first stood alone to address the issue. That deflected some of the early heat from Mrs. Townsend, who has oversight on criminal-justice issues. They both appeared and addressed the problem when plans were announced to revamp the camps.

Still, Mrs. Townsend's schedule increasingly is filled with duties as acting governor when Mr. Glendening is traveling, as he is now. Yesterday,, she announced the decline in the birthrate among Maryland teen-agers for the seventh consecutive year, declaring a shift in the attitude toward sex and pregnancy in young persons. Such appearances allow her to blunt criticism that she doesn't have experience as a chief executive.

Like most of her potential challengers, Mr. Duncan realizes the Kennedy mystique would be tough to take on.

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