Sauerbrey Targeting Economy, Education
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 30, 1998; Page D01
Ellen R. Sauerbrey, the leading Republican candidate for governor, said she disagrees with Maryland laws on abortion, gun control, the state lottery, organized labor and school prayer but that doesn't mean she'll try to change any of them.
Instead, Sauerbrey said that if she became Maryland's first GOP governor in more than 30 years, she would focus on improving the state's economic climate by lowering taxes and streamlining regulations on businesses. She also said she would improve schools by ensuring that state money reaches the classrooms, and she promised a stronger war on drugs.
"I'm not going to waste political capital on things that aren't going to happen," she told a meeting of Washington Post editors and reporters yesterday when asked about social issues such as abortion and school prayer. "As governor, I'm going to be choosing very carefully the things that I try to make happen because I know that you can't fight every battle without losing most of them."
Gov. Parris N. Glendening, who is favored to win the Democratic nomination, has attacked Sauerbrey as a right-wing extremist who is too conservative for Maryland.
Sauerbrey made her name in Maryland state politics as a conservative Republican, but since losing the governor's race to Glendening by fewer than 6,000 votes four years ago, she has been working to moderate her image and to de-emphasize some of the issues she championed over 16 years in the House of Delegates.
On abortion, Sauerbrey said yesterday that she would follow the will of Marylanders who voted in a 1992 referendum to affirm abortion rights. "As governor, I will abide by it and support the legislation on the books," Sauerbrey said.
On gun control, she said that Maryland had "about as much. . .on the books as anybody can do" and that she would crack down on criminals who use guns. Sauerbrey added that she would not rescind any laws, including a measure pushed by Glendening to limit handgun sales to one a month.
"I'm not going to waste my opportunity to be a good governor by trying to fight issues that, for all intents and purposes, you're not going to get rid of," she said.
She offered similar assessments when asked if she would change laws affecting the state lottery (the creation of which she opposed), collective bargaining laws and school prayer.
Sauerbrey said the state has grown too dependent on lottery revenue for it to be disrupted. She said she favors a right-to-work law but acknowledged that labor is too powerful in Maryland for one to be implemented. And she said that while school prayer was not harmful, court rulings prohibiting it were the final word.
"I'm a realist," Sauerbrey said. "I believe in spending my energies for things that I think are going to advance the well-being of Maryland families in a practical sense."
That agenda, she said, will include a push to lower the state income tax to make Maryland more attractive to business. Sauerbrey advocated a 24 percent cut during the 1994 campaign. Since then, Glendening and the Democratic legislature have enacted a phased-in 10 percent reduction -- which Sauerbrey calls vindication of her platform.
"In 1994 I was attacked" for advocating a deep tax cut, Sauerbrey said. "I'm delighted Parris Glendening came to believe personal income taxes were a problem. I don't think the tax burden is off the table. I still believe [in] exactly what I said in 1994. . .a 24 percent reduction in the personal income tax."
She said she would reduce regulations on businesses to make the state more attractive to them. Sauerbrey said she would not advocate anything that would harm air or water quality, but would instead look to reduce meaningless paperwork that was burdensome to business owners.
Sauerbrey said she would concentrate on education. She declared that Glendening used state school aid as a "bribe" to garner votes from legislators for his other political goals and said that she would depoliticize its administration.
She also said she would insist that 90 percent of any new school aid go directly to classroom activities and that only 10 percent go to administrative costs. She said students should be tested for learning disabilities in the first grade so that problems could be detected early -- both serving the student and reducing classroom disruptions and education costs down the road.
To reduce crime, Sauerbrey said, she would wage a tougher fight against drugs, noting that Baltimore hospital emergency rooms have some of the highest admission rates in the nation for heroin and cocaine users. Sauerbrey said that she generally opposes legalized gambling and that slot machines at Maryland racetracks would be a "hard sell" for her, but she left open that option if an independent analysis showed that slots would help the ailing horse industry.
Responding to Sauerbrey's comments in which the candidate said she would not attempt to change some of the laws she disagreed with, Glendening campaign spokesman Peter Hamm said: "Parris Glendening has core beliefs and they translate into his legislative agenda. Ellen Sauerbrey is going to have a hard time convincing voters to vote for her by promising not to implement what her core beliefs are."
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