- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Maryland Comptroller William Donald Schaefer says the state’s Democratic Party is not conservative enough, but the longtime political maverick adds that he is not considering becoming a Republican.

“I think [Democrats] could be a little more conservative,” Mr. Schaefer told The Washington Times yesterday. “They believe in social programs and spending. I believe in social programs, but not so much spending.”

Because of the frequent criticisms of the party, state Democratic leaders have discarded him for not being a “full, red-blooded Democrat,” the 82-year-old comptroller said.

“They never considered me to be the leader,” Mr. Schaefer said of fellow Democrats. “I guess [former Gov. Parris N. Glendening] was supposedly the leader.

“The ones who are in power now don’t want to give it up, and that is wrong. Take a look at who is going to the [Democratic National] Convention. … Glendening most likely will be going. … [Former Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend] most likely will be going.”

“They need new blood,” Mr. Schaefer said. “They should take a note from the Republican Party and get some new blood. They have forgotten about the precinct level. They have been in power so long that they have forgotten about their roots. The principles are good; the execution is not so good.”

His assessment of the party comes one week after state Democratic leaders announced that Mr. Schaefer — the party’s highest-ranking elected official in the state — would not be invited to the Democratic National Convention in Boston in July.

The snub comes after the comptroller’s recent remark that immigrants need to learn English upon their arrival to the United States.

“I don’t want to adjust to another language,” Mr. Schaefer said at a May 5 public meeting. “This is the United States. I think [immigrants] should adjust to us.”

Mr. Schaefer thinks his political alliance with Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., the state’s first Republican governor in three decades, was more of a factor.

“It is political because I am a strong supporter of the governor,” Mr. Schaefer said. “I think he is honest. He is a straight man who is really trying.”

State Democratic Party Chairman Isiah “Ike” Leggett dismissed the accusations, saying Mr. Schaefer is not attending the convention only because he did not ask to be invited.

Mr. Schaefer said he was “not too surprised” about the perceived slight.

“I guess the Democratic Party and all political parties want you to be 100 percent one way, and I am not,” he said.

Mr. Schaefer, who has been involved in politics since 1955, could still go to the convention as a bystander but has no such plans.

“They cannot keep me away from the convention,” he said. “I know that.”

This is not the first time he has declined to apologize for speaking his mind.

Most recently, Mr. Schaefer has unapologetically assailed Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley, a Democrat and one of Mr. Ehrlich’s chief political rivals.

“He has rejected any and all advice,” Mr. Schaefer said. “He has not been a friend since the day he was elected. I think he is very nice looking. [But] I think he has an awful lot to learn to be a good mayor.”

Mr. Schaefer, however, has called Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan one of the Democratic Party’s few marquee political figures.

“I think he is a fine fella and a good administrator,” Mr. Schaefer said. “I have watched him grow in his job as mayor and county executive, and I have nothing but high praise for him. He is a caring guy.”

Mr. Schaefer acknowledges his predicament in the event of a Duncan-Ehrlich face-off in the 2006 gubernatorial race.

“I am not endorsing anybody,” Mr. Schaefer said. “I am going to Bermuda.”

The recent remarks about immigrants are not the first to have sparked controversy.

Since joining the Baltimore City Council in 1955, he has unapologetically said or done what was on his mind, which has upset more than just Democrats.

In October 1992, he endorsed George Bush. In 1994, he further upset Democrats by supporting Republican Helen Delich Bentley for governor, which some political observers say cost Democrats a congressional seat in a redistricting plan. His comment in 1991 that compared the Eastern Shore to an outhouse upset residents statewide. He later apologized for the remark.

Despite the recent snub and criticism from party leaders throughout his career, Mr. Schaefer said he would still be a Democrat if he were starting out in politics today.

“I guess I would choose the Democratic Party, and I would try to make some changes,” he said. “The most important thing would be to be a politician who cares about the people.”

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