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  •   Rappaport Wants Comptroller's Job

    By Philip P. Pan
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Thursday, July 2, 1998; Page D04

    Paul H. Rappaport, the former Howard County police chief who ran as a Republican for lieutenant governor in 1994, said yesterday that he will challenge Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr.'s bid for a fourth term.

    Rappaport, 64, a lawyer in Ellicott City, said his campaign this year would focus on his decades-long record in law enforcement, as well as his plans to make the state more friendly to businesses. He is considered a long shot against Curran, one of the most entrenched politicians in a heavily Democratic state.

    "Mr. Curran has been in elected office for 40 years. I think it's about time he relaxed and played some golf," Rappaport said.

    Rappaport pointed to Curran's decision to take part in antitrust litigation against computer software giant Microsoft Corp. as an example of their differences. "I would take a completely different approach to the job," Rappaport said. "He's been talking about suing Microsoft. I would rather see Microsoft come in and establish a business here and give us 20,000 jobs."

    Rappaport, who was a member of the state police for 27 years, also criticized Curran for joining other states in suing the tobacco industry.

    Rappaport is best known to voters as Republican gubernatorial candidate Ellen R. Sauerbrey's running mate in 1994, and he hoped to be tapped again for this year's campaign. Instead, Sauerbrey passed him over and replaced him with former U.S. attorney Richard D. Bennett.

    In effect, Rappaport and Bennett have now traded spots on the Republican ticket, because it was Bennett who unsuccessfully took on Curran four years ago.

    Republican Party officials welcomed Rappaport's decision to enter the race. Just days earlier, they were worrying in public that no one would step forward to challenge Curran, a liberal who has angered many Republicans with his support for gun control, his fight against tobacco companies and his positions on other issues.

    "I think it's wonderful news," said Joyce Lyons Terhes, the state GOP chairman. ". . . It's good for the party across the board."

    Sauerbrey spokesman Jim Dornan said: "He's an incredible addition to an already strong Republican slate. This goes to show what a team player Paul Rappaport is."

    But many political observers said Rappaport's chances of defeating Curran are slim -- which is exactly why no one else, from either party, has entered the race. Bennett ran an aggressive and well-funded race against Curran four years ago -- when GOP candidates did relatively well all over the country -- and he still lost by 8 percentage points.

    "Curran's strength in Baltimore City and Baltimore County is just incredible," said Patrick J. Smith, a Rockville lawyer who challenged Curran in the Democratic primary four years ago. "In a general election, I just don't see where a virtually unknown Republican has a chance."

    Del Ali, senior vice president with Mason-Dixon Political/Media Research Inc., also dismissed Rappaport's chances. He said the public views Curran "as an ethical and honest man. Even Republicans feel he's a decent guy."

    Curran, 66, who has been lieutenant governor and a state senator, said he welcomed an opponent this fall. "It always gives you an opportunity to talk about the great things this office does," he said.

    He said his decision to join the U.S. Justice Department and 19 other state attorneys general in suing Microsoft over alleged antitrust violations could benefit 2,000 computer companies in Maryland. He also stood by the state's lawsuit against the tobacco industry, which he said was in the interest of the dozens of Maryland children who start smoking every day and die of lung disease.

    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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