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Robert G. Kaiser
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Direct Access: The Local Races

Tuesday, November 3, 1998


Washington Post Senior Correspondent Robert G. Kaiser hosts a live discussion about today's elections in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia with Post Metro Editor Bob Barnes.


Kaiser: Bob Barnes is the Metro editor of the Post. He and his boss, Jo-Ann Armao, the assistant managing editor for Metro News, supervise the paper's biggest staff, which covers our local area. Barnes is an old political junkie. He wrote about politics for the St. Petersburg Times before joining The Post eleven years ago. He has been the political editor on our National desk, and has supervised this year's coverage of the Maryland and District election campaigns.

Bob, a first question: Why is Ellen Sauerbrey doing so well in a state that is overwhelmingly Democratic?

Barnes: I think Sauerbrey has worked very hard, she is a personable campaigner and she has run a good campaign. And she has been helped by the very fact that she is not Glendening, who himself admits that he is not a politician that people find very likable. The question will be whether voters in the end believe his contention that Sauerbrey is too conservative for the state.


Silver Spring, Md.: How is Maryland Republican Rep. Connie Morella doing in the election thus far?

Barnes: She has run what has now become a very standard campaign for her: that she is independent and that she works harder for her district than anyone else would. She is a great frustration for many Democrats, who feel that she votes with Republicans when they really need her, and votes with Democrats when the outcome is not in doubt. But it would be hard to find a politician who is more popular.


Baltimore, Md.: Do you think the tone of the Democratic campaign ads, with their vitriolic attacks on the Republicans and their attempts to link Republican support to gay hate crimes and church burnings, etc., will work or backfire?

Barnes: I think those kinds of ads really only work when they reinforce a feeling about a candidate that already exists. There certainly is a worry about a backlash when independent sources say that a campaign is being unfair; Ellen Sauerbrey in Maryland has had time to fight back against those kinds of ads. But sometimes they cause damage that can't be repaired.


Thetford, Vt.: Bob, growth and development have been huge issues at the local level in Maryland, in places like Harford and Carroll counties. Why has growth been a relative non-issue in the race between Glendening and Sauerbrey?

Barnes: Basically, because there has been no disagreement between the candidates. Glendening was successful in pushing through his so-called Smart Growth legislation, which attempts to reward development in already developed places, during the last legislative session. And while Sauerbrey has quibbled with parts of his plan – and she is much more devoted to big transportation projects to help ease gridlock – she has mostly conceded the issue to him


Washington, D.C.: Why do you think the information concerning the new powers to be given the winner of the mayoral election was not released until today and how do you think it will affect the future of the mayors position with the new Congress?

Barnes: Well, I think it came out today because our reporter David Vise was able to pry it out of some sources. The control board under Alice Rivlin has been much more open to returning power to elected officials; she already has announced plans to return some decisions to the elected school board. I think most voters already had made their decisions on who to vote for based on their view of who would be best to run the city when local control is restored, so I don't see today's news changing that outcome


Bethesda, Md.: A light turnout has been predicted nation-wide. What is happening locally?

Barnes: It is mostly anecdotal, but turnout locally seems to be heavier than expected. There are reports that more people voted in Baltimore by noon today than by the same time four years ago, and our reporters in Montgomery and Prince George's counties are also seeing quite a bit of activity. Both parties have really been working hard on their get out the vote efforts.


Kaiser: We have just about 10 more minutes with Bob Barnes, the Post's Metro Editor.


Washington, D.C.: How important has the role of Kathleen Kennedy Townsend been to Gov. Glendening's reelection efforts ?

Barnes: Well, I think the Glendening-Townsend yard signs that you see everywhere are a good indication of how the Glendening campaign values her. She seems always to be at his side in their television commercials, and he mentioned her repeatedly during the debate. I think this campaign has raised her profile for a future statewide race of her own.


ALexandria, Va.: Living in a state where the addition of roads has only brought about more urban sprawl and traffic, why then has Ellen Sauerbrey been able to use the proposed construction of the inter-county connector to her advantage?

Barnes: The ICC is very important to business interests in the region, and Sauerbrey is sympathetic to their needs. And I think everyone believes that something must be done. I think she has also used the issue to point out one of voters' biggest doubts about Glendening, which is that he changes his position for political advantage. To answer another question on the issue, I am stumped as to Glendening's ultimate position on the issue. He seems to favor some kind of road in that area.


Kaiser: Thanks to Bob Barnes for an engaging half hour. He too was kind to give up his time on such a busy day. Our next discussion, with Tom Edsall of the national political staff, can be read by clicking here.




© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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