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  • Maryland Elections '98

  •   Md. Lawyer Enters Senate Race

    By Scott Wilson
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Thursday, May 28, 1998; Page D08

    Baltimore lawyer George W. Liebmann announced yesterday that he will seek the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate, portraying himself as a thoughtful, wonkish alternative to a Democratic incumbent he says is beholden to liberal special interests.

    Liebmann called education reform the main theme of his campaign, as he sought to distinguish himself from Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D), the popular incumbent seeking a third term in November. Liebmann said he favors federal vouchers to help families pay private school tuition and more community control over schools.

    He cited Mikulski's votes against early versions of the welfare reform bill, U.S. involvement in the Persian Gulf War, and abortion restrictions, portraying her as a "knee-jerk" legislator with a scant record of accomplishment.

    "I believe that this election presents Maryland voters with a clear choice between a small-minded politics consisting of a series of offerings to victim groups and leadership which seeks new mechanisms for addressing domestic problems," Liebmann said after filing his candidacy papers in Annapolis.

    Liebmann, 58, became a Republican a decade ago after years as a Democrat.

    He is a Dartmouth College graduate with a law degree from the University of Chicago and worked as an assistant Maryland attorney general in the late 1960s and later as a top adviser to then-Gov. Harry R. Hughes (D) on energy and environmental matters. He has practiced law for 30 years, first specializing in constitutional litigation and now working primarily in bankruptcy law at his Baltimore firm.

    "Anyone who was interested in reforming domestic institutions had no business being a Democratic," Liebmann said, explaining his decision to switch parties.

    Liebmann, a scholarly, articulate man who has studied at Cambridge University and lectures at Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland Law School, has written two books on the importance in urban society of community institutions such as block associations, senior citizen clubs and self-governing schools. He promotes voucher programs for high school students, merit pay for teachers and local control over classroom discipline.

    "I feel real outrage at the total effect of federal guidelines and restraints" on education policy, Liebmann said.

    Liebmann said he has a "general Republican hostility toward taxes," especially income and payroll taxes. And he supports banning third-trimester abortions except when the mother's life is in danger.

    In his first run for elected office, Liebmann is the fifth Republican to seek the party nomination in September. None of the Republican candidates has broad name recognition, and they will be fighting each other to raise the money needed to take on an incumbent who won with 71 percent of the vote six years ago.

    Liebmann said that he will not need much money to win the primary and that "there are a sufficient number of people in the state and around the country who don't care for Senator Mikulski's positions, so that I can raise enough money in the general."

    "If the public understands what her voting record is and what her positions have been, there is a good chance she will be returned to private life," Liebmann said.

    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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