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In New Bid to Be Md. Governor, Sauerbrey Stresses Schools, Crime

By Charles Babington
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 21, 1997; Page B01

Hoping to recapture the political momentum that carried her within a whisker of the Maryland governor's office in 1994, Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey formally launched her second campaign yesterday by portraying a Maryland where criminals control the streets, schools fail to teach and workers have few opportunities.

During a five-city tour of the state by plane and bus, Sauerbrey also called for additional tax cutting. But she gave the issue far less emphasis than in 1994, when her campaign for a 24 percent income tax reduction propelled her to within 6,000 votes of upsetting Democrat Parris N. Glendening, who is now preparing his run for a second term. "This election is not going to be all about taxes," Sauerbrey said.

She devoted more of her speeches yesterday to describing a state in which crime is rampant and "young thugs roam the halls [of public schools] armed to the teeth with knives and guns instead of facts and figures."

"Maryland has been sliding backwards into the abyss," she said. Without naming Glendening, she attributed the problems to Maryland's "stark lack of leadership. . . . The time is now to redefine Maryland's future."

Sauerbrey, 59, said she would improve the lives of Marylanders by hiring more police officers, building more prisons, raising teacher salaries and removing "red tape" and other impediments to economic growth. Asked in an interview how the government would pay for all that while also cutting taxes, Sauerbrey said, "We're going to go into those details on another day."

Maryland's 1998 gubernatorial election, still 18 months away, may prove the longest and busiest in the state's history. Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker said this week that he will compete with Sauerbrey for the Republican nomination. On the Democratic side, Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann is running to deny Glendening renomination, and other politicians are eyeing the race.

Yesterday, Democratic leaders mostly scoffed at Sauerbrey's assertions, although her vigorous 1994 campaign ignited serious tax-cutting fever in the state. This year, with Glendening's support, the Democrat-controlled General Assembly approved a 10 percent income tax reduction, to be implemented over five years. Sauerbrey said yesterday that 10 percent is "not nearly enough."

"Ellen Sauerbrey doesn't have any issues to run on," said Peter B. Krauser, Glendening's choice as the state's next Democratic Party chairman. "Maryland's economy is strong. We're making major investments in our schools, crime is down and the tax cut is a done deal."

Sauerbrey, speaking at rallies in Hagerstown, Rockville, Upper Marlboro, Baltimore and Salisbury, described a grim state in which many schoolchildren don't know what a textbook is and their parents' economic hopes are dim. Maryland ranks 46th "in economic prosperity," she said.

In an interview, the former high school science teacher said she based the assertion, in part, on studies by the Cato Institute.

Most economists, however, say Maryland's economic climate is improving. From March 1996 to March 1997, employment in suburban Maryland expanded by 1.8 percent. In 1996, Maryland ranked near the bottom of the 50 states in year-to-year job growth. Now, it is near the national average, the Labor Department reported.

Sauerbrey, a former state House of Delegates minority leader who lives in Baltimore County, seemed eager to show her grasp of issues beyond tax cuts.

Her speech contained several rhetorical flourishes, including "each of our lives is a tapestry of events" and "the cure for crime begins in the high chair not the electric chair."

She said her life was changed when she stood at the Berlin Wall at the height of the Cold War and saw it as a government-built barrier to hope and opportunity. "Something in my heart said: `Get off your duff, Ellen. You've got to keep that from happening,' " she said.

Some analysts said Sauerbrey is wise to expand her message beyond tax cuts, because the economy has improved and the Glendening-backed 10 percent income tax reduction has stolen some of her momentum.

"There's no way that issue has the same potency" for 1998, said Keith Haller, a Bethesda-based pollster who generally works with Democrats.

However, he said, Sauerbrey must be cautious in expanding her portfolio, because most voters associate her with one thing: cutting taxes. "It's very difficult to recast a politician who is so high-profile, so opinionated, so focused on one relatively controversial issue," Haller said.

Former Maryland state senator Howard A. Denis, a Republican activist who joined Sauerbrey in Rockville, said Sauerbrey's trump card will be "the trust issue." Too many voters see Glendening as indecisive and untrustworthy, he said. "You have to have trust, and that's what Ellen brings to the table."

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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