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Robert Raymond Fustero, of Silver Spring, Md., is a retired clerk for Giant supermarket.
He has never before run for public office. But he decided it would be fun, as a Democrat, to run for governor of Maryland at a cost of only $250 to file. So he did, with his daughter Linda as his running mate.
He did no campaigning at all.
Then, on Sept. 10, in Maryland’s primary election, Mr. Fustero was absolutely astounded to receive 105,447 votes.
This is very possibly the most spectacular response to any write-in candidate in U.S. history.
Mr. Fustero, a congenial and amused man, was running for governor against Maryland’s Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, of America’s political royal family.
What apparently led more than 100,000 Maryland Democrats to vote for this unknown, rather than for KKT, was her 8 years as lieutenant governor to Maryland’s term-limited incumbent governor, Parris Glendening.
At one point early in his two terms, Glendening, in a survey rating of all 50 U.S. state governors, was rated number 49, with number 50 being Arizona Gov. Fyfe Symington, who had just been indicted.
Glendening, a former political science professor at the University of Maryland, came into the governorship under a cloud. He told Prince George’s County, where he was county executive, that he was leaving them with a surplus – which was really a deficit – in part, because he had arranged a secret but lucrative pension plan for himself.
As governor, Glendening managed, by his huge spending, to change a $1 billion surplus into a $1 billion deficit. This was, in part, because he arranged the purchase of a $4 million luxury plane – allegedly to transport convicts, but also used to transport him to such events as football games.
Gov. Glendening also increased the salary of one of his female staffers by more than $50,000, even as he, a married man, began spending nights in her Annapolis condo. This was soon covered by a Gary Hart-like surveillance team of reporters from the Washington Post.
Glendening’s heavily-paid staff-mistress (who is now his third wife) was repeatedly referred to as “The Big Boss” by one of Maryland’s political legends, William Donald Schaefer, who was four times mayor of Baltimore, twice governor of Maryland and now state comptroller. He is widely beloved for his honesty, for his energy (Do it NOW!) and for being the most entertaining political leader in Maryland – perhaps in all of American history.
Schaefer is loathed by Glendening, who persuaded his willing Secretary of State John Willis to run against Schaefer for comptroller.
Almost every Democrat leader in Maryland – including Lt. Gov. Townsend – endorsed Schaefer for re-election. But Glendening responded by spending $50,000 in smear-Schaefer radio spots. These called Schaefer racist and sexist because he referred to some female acquaintances as “My little girls.”
Fifty women promptly demonstrated in Annapolis as “HIS LITTLE GIRLS – AN HONOR.”
In the primary election, Schaefer, age 80, annihilated Glendening’s candidate Willis by 64 percent to 32 percent.
There are three federal investigations going on, two of which concern areas of the Maryland state government assigned by Glendening to Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.
Lt. Gov. Townsend was willing to publicly dissent with Glendening over his smear-Schaefer radio spots. But the federal investigations, and her failure to dissent with Glendening on so many earlier problems – from the budget to the luxury plane to the mistress – may well make eight years of acquiescence to Glendening just too much.
With 105,000 Democrat votes for Fustero the unknown, there could be an even greater loss in 55 days when Democrats can vote for Republican Congressman Bob Ehrlich in the general election.