Glendening Makes It Official
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 17, 1998; Page B01
Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening, buoyed by a vibrant economy and falling crime rates, formally launched his reelection campaign yesterday by asking voters to stick with his programs and reject the "extremist" candidate he thinks Republicans will nominate again to oppose him in the fall.
In a 20-minute speech under a sweltering sun in College Park, Glendening (D) hailed his administration's role in building schools, cutting taxes, limiting handgun sales, improving health care, and combating aquatic toxins. He cast the coming election as a referendum on his record.
"We have turned our promises into progress for the people of Maryland," he said.
Glendening, 56, for the first time outlined goals for a second four-year term. Without offering details, he said he wants to reduce school class sizes "starting with math and reading courses," improve worker training, "institute a patients' bill of rights," and "integrate mass transit systems statewide."
Glendening's long-planned announcement signals that the 1998 governor's race is fully engaged, featuring at least five contenders with enough money or name recognition to vie seriously for voters' attention. National Republicans see Maryland as one of their best hopes for toppling an incumbent Democrat, given Glendening's low public approval ratings in 1996 and 1997 and his brushes with ethical controversies involving fund-raising and a government pension.
But a booming economy and the higher tax revenue it generates have enabled Glendening to pour money into popular programs in every county. Now he will remind voters of those efforts and urge them to keep the state government on track, rather than switch drivers.
His campaign won't be all high road. Without naming names, he attacked Ellen R. Sauerbrey, the Republican nominee who narrowly lost to him in 1994 and who hopes for a rematch in November.
Glendening is picking up key endorsements that might have been in doubt a year or two ago. State Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Prince George's), a former adversary, heartily introduced Glendening to yesterday's audience. Another frequent critic, House of Delegates Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. (D-Allegany), endorsed Glendening on Monday. And Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) plans to endorse the governor today in Rockville.
Those actions have taken some of the sting from the endorsement in April of Democratic rival Eileen M. Rehrmann, the Harford County executive, by Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke (D). Other Democratic gubernatorial candidates include former Washington Redskins player Ray Schoenke and Davidsonville physician Terry McGuire. Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker is challenging Sauerbrey for the GOP nomination.
Like incumbents throughout the country, Glendening is taking full advantage of nationwide trends toward high employment and lower crime.
"Our economy is the strongest it has been in more than a decade," he said in his speech to about 200 supporters, who interrupted with applause at least 23 times. "Our effort to create jobs has indeed paid off. More than 103,000 new jobs have been created since January 1995."
"Crime is down, and Maryland's streets are safer," Glendening said. "In fact, last year our violent crime rate dropped almost twice as fast as the national average."
He said public education is "our top priority." He cited recent increases in state spending for school construction, public school programs and higher education, and he touted a prepaid-tuition program that could help some parents send children to college.
He also highlighted his environmental record, including efforts to slow suburban sprawl and combat the fish-killing microbe Pfiesteria piscicida. He denounced the notion of legalized slot machines at horse racing tracks, saying they would lead to casinos and the higher crime rates experienced in some towns on Mississippi's coast.
As for Sauerbrey, Glendening said Marylanders should not "make the mistake of electing an extremist with a far-right agenda, an extremist who is so out of step that she actually has proposed cutting public education, cutting health care and cutting our environmental programs."
Through a campaign spokesman, Sauerbrey called Glendening's comments "hysterical name-calling." She added, "It's unfortunate, but not unexpected, that Parris Glendening would choose the low road of negative campaigning he took in 1994."
Glendening's speech in College Park where he spent years as a political science professor at the University of Maryland kicked off a three-day statewide campaign tour. He went to Baltimore yesterday afternoon, and is expected to stop in Hagerstown, Frederick, Rockville and Columbia today. He has events scheduled for Thursday in Annapolis and Ocean City.
In his speech yesterday, the governor offered no details of his plans for second-term initiatives and declined to answer a reporter's question about his class size proposal. Last week, Glendening turned down a Washington Post request to be interviewed about his plans for a second term. Campaign aides said the governor will offer details of his plans in the coming weeks and months.
Some Democrats say they hope it happens soon.
"It's clear that the voters are going to want an explanation of what we plan to do over the next four years," said Del. John A. Hurson (D-Montgomery), House majority leader. "In my opinion, they will not be satisfied with a simple explanation of what we've already done."
However, Del. Cheryl C. Kagan (D-Montgomery) said: "I think voters are going to be judging based on the last four years. With the economy so strong, they are not looking for radical change."
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company