Governor Previews Forceful Campaign
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 11, 1998; Page C01
Looking beyond one of the most tumultuous weeks in Maryland political history, Gov. Parris N. Glendening yesterday vowed a vigorous reelection campaign based on his record of gun control, environmental protection and aid to public schools while mocking his likely GOP opponent.
The governor also issued his most forceful apology to date for at first accepting an unusually lucrative pension from his tenure as Prince George's county executive. And during a luncheon with Washington Post reporters and editors, a relaxed and confident-sounding Glendening (D) ridiculed attempts by his main Republican challenger, conservative former House of Delegates minority leader Ellen R. Sauerbrey, to moderate her image, decrying her "new, fluffy, moderate posture."
The governor's jovial demeanor seemed a marked contrast from the tense political atmosphere in Annapolis this week following the death of longtime comptroller Louis L. Goldstein. On Monday, Glendening appointed Michael D. Barnes, a former congressman from Montgomery County, to fill Goldstein's unexpired term. But Barnes, who also planned to run in the fall election, stepped down Thursday after swelling support for the surprise candidacy of former governor William Donald Schaefer.
"I got a great candidate who did a great job -- for three days," Glendening joked. He said that he regretted not having someone on his ticket from Montgomery County but that he looked forward to campaigning -- and governing -- with Schaefer.
"There are going to be personality quirks. He is not a bland person," Glendening said of Schaefer, whom he succeeded nearly four years ago. But Glendening said he is confident the two will get along well, particularly on the Board of Public Works, the powerful body that oversees all state contracts and purchases.
During the 90-minute session, Glendening said he would advance several new initiatives in a second term, including free college tuition for good students. He also spoke bluntly about the Prince George's pension deal, which helped contribute to what he termed his "rocky start."
"I have made some mistakes. I know that," Glendening said of his tenure. Asked for an example, he said, "I think the handling of the Prince George's County pension was incorrect. The pension itself was not unreasonable. [But] I should not have taken it, nor should others have taken it. It was wrong. Part of the process is, you learn."
Soon after he was inaugurated in 1995, Glendening announced that he would stop accepting the special early pension arrangement -- worth about $22,000 a year -- saying that while he did not see anything wrong, the fierce public criticism had become a "distraction" for his administration. The pension was sweetened by an unusual provision that enhanced benefits for employees "involuntarily separated" from county government, as county attorneys ruled Glendening was when county voters imposed term limits on officeholders.
Although the governor leads Sauerbrey and his main Democratic primary challenger, Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann, in a recent Washington Post poll, that same poll showed his support is soft, and the governor has come under sharp criticism from some of his former Democratic allies.
Glendening played down recent harsh comments from Prince George's County Executive Wayne K. Curry (D), who is supporting Rehrmann. Curry has accused Glendening of not providing enough school construction funding for his county's schools, noting that Montgomery County has received more during the last four years. The governor said the criticism is misleading and noted that overall state school aid to Prince George's will be $11 million higher than Montgomery's this fiscal year; a main reason is that predetermined state funding formulas tend to favor those counties, like Prince George's, that have larger numbers of poor children.
The governor accused Curry and Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke (D), who also has endorsed Rehrmann, of doing the bidding of their political adviser, Baltimore lawyer Larry Gibson, who Glendening said wants to bring slot machines and casinos to Maryland.
"The only fundamental issue of disagreement [with his Democratic opponents] is slots," said the governor, who said he adamantly opposes any expansion of gambling.
Curry responded indignantly to Glendening's charges. "What a patronizing and condescending thing to say about either me or the mayor of Baltimore," he said. "It is clearly untrue. It's just another attempt on their part to intimidate because we stand up and call it like we see. They think that's nervy, if not uppity."
Glendening dismissed the intensity of his political battle with Curry by saying that "politics is a blood sport in Prince George's." He noted that he once had feuded with state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Prince George's) but that the two are now allies, with Miller supporting Glendening's reelection.
"That's what happens in Prince George's politics," he said. "There's ebb and flow and then people come back together."
But while saying he could work with Curry in the future, Glendening made it clear that he would count on his supporters in the county to accomplish his agenda. "Am I going to continue to work very aggressively and successfully for Prince George's County? Obviously," he said. "Who will be my closest confidants there in terms of working with? They'll be the senators and some council members and some others."
The governor virtually ignored Rehrmann during the interview, heaping all his scorn on Sauerbrey, who is favored to win the GOP nomination and who was his 1994 opponent. Since losing by fewer than 6,000 votes four years ago, Sauerbrey has been working hard to counter Glendening's charges that she is a "radical right-winger" who is too conservative for Maryland. She is attempting to talk more about herself and her upbringing in a Baltimore row house to connect with voters.
But Glendening said voters should not be fooled by Sauerbrey's new "soft statements."
"I think it's important the voters know the choices that are before us," he said. "I'm for a woman's right to choose, she has not been ever. I am for tight restrictions on guns in our community . . . she's consistently against them."
The governor said Sauerbrey has opposed his plans to control development sprawl, his efforts to combat Pfiesteria piscicida, the toxic microbe that sickened people and killed fish in Chesapeake Bay estuaries last summer, and his efforts at enhancing mass transit.
"What you have here is a responsible, progressive agenda versus a far-right agenda. The public has a right to know that," Glendening said.
Sauerbrey said she is against abortion and dislikes gun control but that she would not change any existing laws if elected. Glendening is engaging in negative campaigning with his attacks on her, she said yesterday.
"I expect it to be nothing but mean," Sauerbrey said of Glendening's campaign. "Parris got away with defining me four years ago because he had a boatload of money. He is frustrated at the progress we've made showing that the real Ellen Sauerbrey is mainstream Maryland."
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