- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 9, 2002

Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening yesterday spoke publicly for the first time about the Washington-area sniper attacks but some critics wondered where he has been for the past five days.
At a news conference at Montgomery County police headquarters, Mr. Glendening vowed that no law-enforcement resource would be spared in catching the killer, whom he called a coward and urged to surrender voluntarily.
"This is a person who is shooting elderly men, shooting women, and now shooting little children," said Mr. Glendening. "This is the act of an absolute coward."
"And I really think if there is any message, it is for this individual to turn himself in, to stop this insane killing," the governor said.
But State Sen. Larry E. Haines, the Senate minority whip, said Mr. Glendening should have come forward sooner and offered a stronger statement to reassure the public.
"The governor should have immediately come out and said that all the state resources would be available and the National Guard would be deployed," said Mr. Haines, Carroll County Republican. "It is unusual that a governor would be that slow to react when lives are at risk and this killer is on the loose."
State Senate Minority Leader J. Lowell Stoltzfus said he welcomed the governor's remarks, but he was critical of the delay in taking a visible leadership role.
"It's past time for him to step to the plate, and it is good to see him out," said the Eastern Shore Republican. He said that politicians should not exploit the "human tragedy" of the shooting spree, but the state needed a governor's leadership at this time.
State Sen. Ida G. Ruben, chairman of the Montgomery County delegation to the General Assembly, defended Mr. Glendening. She said the governor didn't need to enter the limelight early on to demonstrate his leadership.
"He was in his office giving the leadership necessary for this crisis. If people were faulting him for not being in front of the cameras, I have no answer for that," said Mrs. Ruben, a Democrat. "I don't feel as though it is important for public officials to jump into the picture if they are not in any way connected to the situation."
Glendening spokesman Charles F. Porcari said the governor had been "deeply involved since the beginning." He pointed out that the governor issued a statement Thursday, when the shooting spree became apparent.
The four-sentence statement expressed sympathy for the families and promised state police assistance to bring the shooter to justice.
The governor refrained from making a public appearance "until this situation moved into a whole larger horrific realm," when the sniper shot a 13-year-old boy on Monday. Mr. Glendening then arranged the joint news conference with leaders from throughout the region to show solidarity, Mr. Porcari said.
"This has nothing to do with personalities and everything to do with finding a killer," Mr. Porcari said.
Mr. Glendening has remained generally out of sight for at least the past six weeks, as his plummeting job-approval ratings became a drag on the gubernatorial campaign of Democratic nominee Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.
Both Mrs. Townsend and her Republican opponent, Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., have said the campaigns should refrain from politicizing the incident, but Mrs. Townsend said she had no control over a television ad blitz that is being funded in Montgomery County by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, a national gun-control group. The ads are critical of Mr. Ehrlich's positions on gun laws.
A near-majority of voters disapprove of Mr. Glendening's performance, according to a Potomac Survey Research Inc. poll conducted in the last week of September for the Baltimore Sun and Gazette newspapers.
"It seems purposeful that Glendening has stayed on the sidelines either not wanting to outshine Townsend or to cause problems [for her campaign]," said Keith Haller, president of the Bethesda-based polling firm.
He said that Mrs. Townsend obviously had forged a distance between herself and Mr. Glendening during the last month, but he would not speculate on the timing of Mr. Glendening's public response to the shooting spree.
"If there ever is a time for a governor or county executive to be visible, it is when you have this type of terror-driven incident, where people's lives are at stake, especially kids," Mr. Haller said. "It would be very unusual to stay on the sidelines."
Maryland Comptroller William Donald Schaefer, a Democrat but longtime political adversary of Mr. Glendening's, said he didn't believe campaign politics influenced the governor to delay taking a public stand. It was just poor leadership, he said.
"I don't think he didn't come forward because of Kathleen, he just didn't come forth," said Mr. Schafer, a former governor and Baltimore mayor. "He should not be seen with Kathleen. Everytime he does that, she loses votes. This is different. He just didn't come forth."
Mr. Schaefer also was critical of the content of Mr. Glendening's remarks, which he said didn't provide "peace and comfort" for anybody unnerved by the inexplicable sniper attacks.
"I don't even know why he made a statement. He didn't give any peace or comfort to anybody," he said. "He said, 'Give up.' He isn't going to give up."


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