In Md., a Bitter Campaign Reprise
and Charles Babington
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, June 18, 1998; Page D01
In appearances from Hagerstown to Howard County, Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) and Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey dueled sharply yesterday over the major themes likely to dominate this year's governor's race: Glendening's sincerity and Sauerbrey's staunch conservativism.
Acting as if the September primaries already have been decided, Maryland's two leading candidates for governor took aim at each other and tried to shore up their own political weak spots. The day offered an early reprise of the kind of bitter campaigning that marked the 1994 governor's race, in which Glendening defeated Sauerbrey by fewer than 6,000 votes.
From the steps of her childhood home in Baltimore's Waverly section, Sauerbrey sought to soften her political image by introducing moderate Republican Richard D. Bennett as her running mate. She called Bennett, a former U.S. attorney for Maryland, "someone who is ethical, beyond reproach."
Sauerbrey, who in recent days has decried what she called "negative" campaigning against her by Glendening, was ready with some of her own yesterday, telling the crowd: "Just two days ago, a leading member of the governor's own party said of the governor, 'I don't think the man is capable of telling the truth.' And that's tragic. The people of this neighborhood . . . people everywhere, deserve better."
She was alluding to former Montgomery county executive Sidney Kramer, the running mate of Democratic candidate Eileen M. Rehrmann.
Bennett and Sauerbrey played down their ideological differences. It shouldn't matter that he supports gun control and abortion rights while she doesn't, they said, because those issues have largely been settled in Maryland -- along lines Glendening favors.
Glendening hit four counties where he and supporters stressed his integrity and reliability. Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) set the tone with a noontime endorsement in Rockville, saying six times that Glendening has "kept his promise" to help Montgomery on issues such as school construction and environmental programs.
In an interview, Duncan said he was trying to counter recent statements by Kramer and Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke (D), who have said Glendening misled them on important government matters. Both men support Rehrmann, the Harford county executive.
And in an interview with Washington Post editors and reporters, Sauerbrey's rival for the GOP nomination, Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker, played down criticism of the governor's credibility. Although he'd heard other politicians' complaints about Glendening, Ecker said, the governor "never promised Howard County or me anything that he did not deliver."
With the general election nearly six months away, Sauerbrey and Glendening seemed to agree on three key points: that both can ignore contenders within their own parties seeking the Sept. 15 Democratic or Republican nomination; that Glendening, blessed with a robust economy and ample money for popular programs, may be most vulnerable on allegations that he has shaded the truth; and that Sauerbrey, the former House minority leader, may be most vulnerable to the assertion that she is too conservative for Maryland.
In appearances in Hagerstown, Frederick, Rockville and Columbia, Glendening tried to convert his potentially weakest point -- questions about his honesty -- into his strongest asset: his ability to deliver on promises of state aid for schools, businesses and other institutions. Speakers cited local projects helped by the state's bulging coffers as proof of Glendening's campaign motto: Promises made, promises kept.
In Frederick, Republican Mayor James Grimes hailed Glendening as "a man who has trust and honor. . . . I know that when you are reelected in November, you will continue to help the City of Frederick."
Glendening, accompanied by his wife, Frances Anne, and Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, said: "With modesty, we laid out a track record of commitments that we have honored."
While defending the governor's integrity, Glendening and his surrogates hammered at Sauerbrey's conservative record. In Rockville, Glendening reminded more than 100 supporters that Sauerbrey has opposed abortion rights and gun control -- two issues Sauerbrey says are now moot.
"That's a hard, far-right, extreme-right agenda," Glendening said. If handgun limits are repealed in Maryland, he said, "our children will die."
Meanwhile in Baltimore, Sauerbrey said Glendening is overstating his accomplishments. Although jobs are increasing and crime is falling in Maryland, she said, other states are doing better in those areas.
"It breaks my heart that the state is led by a man who is more concerned with his own political future than the future of the families of this neighborhood and across the state," she said,
" . . . a man who digs into the pockets of hard-working taxpayers to profit his own pension check."
Glendening surrendered unusually generous pension benefits from Prince George's County, where he served 12 years as county executive before becoming governor, after a public outcry in 1995.
Throughout the day, Glendening and Sauerbrey made no mention of other gubernatorial contenders: Republican Ecker and Democrats Rehrmann; Ray Schoenke, a former Washington Redskins player; and Terry McGuire, a Davidsonville physician.
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