Clocking the Maryland Governor's Race
In the dawn's early light, the candidates for once look like their fuzzy, grainy images from their opponent's TV attack ads.
Less than a week to go, everyone is tired. But Parris Glendening and Ellen Sauerbrey and their aides can't let up now. Each day could mean the difference between the governor's mansion and the anonymity of the powerless. This is one of those days:
6 a.m., Silver Spring
A groggy Peter Hamm, Glendening's communications director, stumbles out of bed and inspects the refrigerator in his apartment. Forget cereal, the milk is spoiled. Even worse, looking ahead to his likely return at midnight, there's no beer.
A typical start for Hamm, who hasn't had a day off, Sundays included, since March 23, when he signed on to his $5,000-a-month job and moved into the two-bedroom place in an old brick low-rise development called Falkland Chase.
The walls are decorated with souvenirs of a political life: Wellstone '96; the Denver G-7 summit; an invitation to the 1996 Clinton inaugural. In the spare bedroom, a set of weights, a Nintendo joystick, an electric keyboard and a stack of nicotine patches all gather dust.
After a stop at the corner convenience store, where he buys two newspapers and enjoys his first cigarette of the day, Hamm merges into Beltway traffic for a 20-minute trip to campaign headquarters in Riverdale.
6:45 a.m., Landover Metro station
Under a sullen gray sky, the governor of Maryland steps out of his navy blue Chevy Tahoe.
"It's our fair congressman," he says to Rep. Al Wynn (D), thrusting his right hand forward-the first handshake of the day. "This is our governor, this is the maaaan," Wynn preaches. "Good morning. How aaaare ya?"
When Samuel Asante comes near, he stops full in his tracks. "What are you going to do with the slot machines at the racetrack?" he asks.
"I don't support that," Glendening says.
"Well, good, that's what I want," Asante replies. "They gonna make people broke."
Glendening looks into the man's face for a long instant, the way one looks at a relative in time of crisis. "I really need your help with the election," he says.
8:30 a.m., an empty parking lot on York Road in Timonium
Jonathan is late. Sauerbrey sits in her red campaign van outside the Michael Phoenix hair salon, growing more anxious by the moment.
Jonathan Jones, 53, owner of Michael Phoenix, has been her hairdresser for 15 years. When he first met her, he bluntly told her that her hair looked like it was done by a housewife, which was fine, if all she wanted to be was a housewife.
Now, though, she wants badly to be governor, and he has given her colored blond hair an elegant style he calls "simple, . . . concise, yet unobstructive."
But right now she's got a television appearance in an hour, and Jonathan is a no-show. "I hope we don't have a screw-up," Sauerbrey says, glancing nervously out the window. "This is a disaster if he doesn't show up. I didn't fool with my hair at all this morning, and I gotta do television. I don't even have a curling iron with me."
Minutes tick by. Sauerbrey signs thank-you notes with a blue felt-tip pen. Finally, a car pulls into the lot. Jones, clad in black shoes, black pants and a black shirt, greets Sauerbrey amiably. He says the appointment was for 8:45, not 8:30.
8:40 a.m., Holiday Inn, Timonium
Len Foxwell, the governor's 27-year-old campaign press secretary, parks his white Chevy Lumina in front of the hotel entrance. The halls are thick with bureaucrats and academics attending a juvenile justice conference. The governor is here to address them.
But Foxwell's concern is finding a fax machine: Glendening's speechwriter has paged him with word that the governor hates-hates-the speech Foxwell has written for the next stop.
Foxwell locates a fax, gets a new text from headquarters, and runs it to Glendening's advance man. That done, Foxwell darts back into the packed ballroom. "Homicide is down, rape is down," Glendening says from the podium, as Foxwell reaches the buffet table. He grabs two apple danish and folds a paper napkin around them. Breakfast.
9:10 a.m., Glendening headquarters, Riverdale
A sign on the wall over Hamm's desk assesses the governor's campaign in football terms: "Two minutes left, leading by field goal. We have the ball. Short running plays. NO FUMBLES!"
But Sauerbrey isn't rolling over. A shout from the research room alerts the campaign chiefs that volunteers recording news and commercials off Washington and Baltimore TV stations have a copy of a new Republican commercial, which hits Glendening for spending $272 million in taxpayers' money for two new football stadiums.
In the ad, unseen but wealthy team owners toast each other with champagne as an announcer proclaims that the money was spent at the expense of the state's schoolchildren.
"This ad will hurt us most in Montgomery and Howard," one Glendening staffer says.
"Get the stats on school construction in each of those counties," another responds.
9:30 a.m., WMAR-TV studios, Baltimore
Glendening press chief Foxwell reads through the latest draft of the governor's script while Channel 2 assignment editor Ed Fishel types the statement into the TelePrompTer.
"Sauerbrey's not in here today, is she?" Foxwell asks.
"She's coming after you," Fishel says. "That's why I've got to get you out of here."
Sauerbrey's advance people are already parked outside the studio. When the governor pulls in, he spots their yellow Sauerbrey bumper sticker.
"Who is that?"
"It's your lovely opponent," says advance man Ken Ulman.
9:30 a.m., on the road to WMAR
Sauerbrey, accompanied by aide Steven Atkiss, and her longtime driver, Harry Garcia, a retired Maryland state trooper, is heading for her interview when the car phone tinkles.
It is Pennsylvania's Republican governor, Tom Ridge. "I just wanted to tell you that we're rooting for you," he says.
"You know Clinton's coming in for him on the weekend?" Sauerbrey says after thanking Ridge. "Obviously this is really a big push to turn out the vote. If you have any great ideas, we're trying to figure [it] out. . . . My wish list would be to bring Colin Powell in, but he's not doing much of anything political."
Sauerbrey seems tense, anxious, seething at Glendening, who she believes is playing dirty. During their recent debate, she says, she was so mad, "I wanted to grab him by the tonsils."
The van pulls into the station's parking lot, just as the governor's Chevy Tahoe arrives.
Sauerbrey never looks up.
9:50 a.m., WMAR
The governor finishes taping his two-minute talk and accompanies reporter Lou Davis into another studio for an interview, just as Sauerbrey enters the building.
Davis-with thinning hair, a rounding middle and a subdued suit, he's nobody's talking hair-do-conducts his interviews in an emotionless, almost inaudible mumble.
Before tonight's news, Davis will retape his questions. In fact, shortly after the candidates leave the station, a cameraman will tape "cutaway" shots of Davis. Davis will nod, smile and change his expression as if reacting to something the candidate has said. Only he'll be reacting to an empty chair.
Glendening and Sauerbrey, however, get no second chances.
Glendening sits across from Davis, assailing his opponent, when suddenly her image pops onto a television monitor across from him: Sauerbrey is in the other studio now, taping her own spot.
"She voted against Saturday night special bans," Glendening says, as Sauerbrey's words flash across the prompter: "overcrowded schools . . . "
Ulman shakes his head in disbelief, taps the cameraman on the shoulder and points at the screen. The cameraman quickly turns off the TV monitor.
10:40 a.m., Sauerbrey headquarters, Towson
Sauerbrey's press and scheduling chief, Jim Dornan, and the rest of his team are on a speakerphone with organizers of Sauerbrey's forthcoming three-day, 23-county bus tour of Maryland.
Dornan proposes to have Sauerbrey shake commuters' hands at a Montgomery County Metro stop Thursday morning.
That's a problem, says scheduler Lisa Ellis: Sauerbrey dislikes glad-handing at Metro stops, where many commuters brusquely rush by. "Find out what Metro stops are good for Republicans," Ellis says. "She hated Grosvenor. There wasn't a Republican there. She wasn't fawned over the way she likes to be."
10:45 a.m., Greg's Bagels, Riverdale
The governor orders a Gargantua-a bagel encrusted in red hot peppers and Brazil nuts.
"The question is, do I charge you for this, or give it to you for free and try to get political favors later?" jokes the proprietor, Greg Novik.
"I better pay for it," the governor says. Cash on the counter.
10:45 a.m., Near Baltimore-Washington International Airport
The advance man is lost. Brendan Marr, 26, grew up in Baltimore, but he cannot find one of Maryland's top employers, the vast Northrop Grumman complex.
Sauerbrey is due at Northrop Grumman at 11 a.m. Marr was supposed to be there 45 minutes early to make sure everything was in place at the employee cafeteria where Sauerbrey is to shake hands.
Marr picks up his cell phone and calls Northrop for directions. Receptionist Donna DeVilbiss walks him through: "Make a left-when the light's green of course. . . . No, don't get on the parkway!"
Five minutes later, Marr, who makes $1,875 a month, pulls his Mercury Mystique into the lot and bounds into the reception area, out of breath, embarrassed. He has lucked out: Sauerbrey is running 20 minutes late.
10:58 a.m., Glendening headquarters
Glendening seats himself inside a cubbyhole office, takes a bite of his bagel and dials up Gus Floyd, publisher of the Prince George's Post, an African American community newspaper.
"If you feel comfortable doing this, we could really use a very aggressive editorial, maybe something front page," Glendening says. "If you could hit it hard just one more time, I would really appreciate it."
11:10 a.m., Woodend Sanctuary, Chevy Chase
Jennifer Crawford, one of two deputy campaign managers for Glendening, is prepping the arrival points-checking where the VIPs will enter-for a $1,000-a-plate fundraiser at this Audubon Society-owned mansion high on a glorious autumnal hill.
She's been at it since 6:30 a.m.-not nearly early enough considering that she had nothing clean to wear this morning and had to stop at Wawa to buy pantyhose at 9:15.
The Secret Service begins to seal off the house, ushering everyone outside.
Deputy finance director Delphia Outlaw runs a brush through her hair. Unsolicited, she brushes another woman's hair.
"I need lipstick," Outlaw remarks. "Should I put on lipstick? I should have put on lipstick."
11:22 a.m., Sauerbrey headquarters
In the tiny office that Dornan and Sauerbrey aide John Lloyd share, a volunteer named Charlotte hustles in and says, "There's an outgoing county commissioner with a radio show somewhere." He has asked for "anything bad on Glendening that we want to get out without having it tied to our campaign."
"Okay, talk to op-research," says Dornan. "Have them put something together and we'll get it down to him."
11:30 a.m., Northrop Grumman, near BWI
"It's just PR," shrugs pipefitter Lenny Cook, 44.
The brisket will have to wait. She's coming right at them. "Hi, I'm Ellen Sauerbrey," she says with a big smile, offering her hand to each man.
"I know who you are," says Michael St. Leger, 43, a pipefitter from Baltimore who plans to vote for her. He stands to shake her hand, as do the others. The exchange lasts less than four seconds; the brisket is still warm.
And the men turn their attention to other matters.
"When we're amongst ourselves, we talk about sex," Cook said.
12:15 p.m., Woodend Sanctuary
TV cameras line the driveway as Glendening's vehicle pulls up to the brick mansion. Vice President Gore is on his way, along with Sens. Paul Sarbanes and Barbara Mikulski and a full slate of local Democrats.
"You have all the networks," aide Crawford tells Glendening. "And C-SPAN."
The governor moves past the cameras to the back entrance. He passes through the French doors-the VIP entrance-into a smartly dressed crowd of two dozen lawyers, developers, lobbyists, doctors. Each has paid $4,000 to stand for a quarter-hour with the governor, sipping chardonnay, nibbling on olives.
Five guys in nice suits chat about the joys of Ravens Stadium. "How are the boxes?" says Gerard Gaeng.
"A skybox is really a different experience," exults Bob Mathias.
12:30 p.m., I-95 in Howard County
Sauerbrey is still at Northrup, but advance man Marr is on the move, flying at 75 mph toward the Howard County senior center where the candidate will stop next. Marr's days last at least 12 hours, and he often wakes up at night worrying whether he's doing enough to help.
The bumper sticker on his car says "Another Democrat for Sauerbrey." Marr is a registered Republican. "I do that just to [tick] 'em off," he says.
Marr-youngest child of former Orioles broadcaster Tom Marr-grabs a quick grilled chicken sandwich at a Blackeyed Pea restaurant. The advance man, a 1996 graduate of Frostburg State University, quit work as a lobbyist's assistant in Washington to join Sauerbrey.
His future in government service? "I'll know in a week," Marr says.
1:07 p.m. Woodend Sanctuary
The speeches are exuberant. Buoyant.
Gore works the crowd with quips and praise for Glendening's environmental stewardship. The two trade one-liners about their woodenness.
Glendening has a minor mishap, referring to Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend as his first lady, before correcting himself. But the crowd is with him every step of the way.
Glendening descends from the podium, momentarily triumphant. Then he's swallowed by a thicket of cameras. Questions land like artillery: Why are his ads so negative? Why did he snub President Clinton?
In the dining room, the crowd digs into smoked oysters, filet mignon and crab cakes with a fringe of pesto-mashed potatoes. Mikulski tells Glendening he was "as funny as Saturday Night Live." Compliment? Insult?
A man sidles up close and shares a story: His sister-a generous supporter four years ago-is not contributing this time.
"She is so hurt that you spurned the president," he says. "She just couldn't understand."
Perhaps the governor could give her a call?
1:40 p.m., Outside Parkview Senior Center, Columbia
The advance man's credo is "No Surprises." As Sauerbrey drives toward Parkview, Marr-already on the scene-punches up his cell phone, warning the candidate's people of what she's about to face. "A TV reporter from WBAL wants to ask her about Vice President Gore coming to campaign for Glendening," Marr says. "He needs a 30-second soundbite."
1:45 p.m., Inside Parkview Senior Center
Rudy Tyrell has already made the coffee and the community room is filling with white-haired ladies carrying the small purses of women who don't stray far from home.
Tyrell, 68, is de facto mayor of the complex. One of only a handful of male residents in the 104-apartment building, he's especially popular among the women. "That one brought me an apple pie last night, I get food from her and from her and from her," he says, taking inventory of his admirers.
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company