Backing off an earlier dicision, Anne Arundel County Executive Robert A. Pascal said yesterday he would seek the Republican nomination for governor of Maryland if party fund-raisers could assure him at least $400,000 by the end of this month.
Pascal, who is considered one of the brightest Republican hopes in the state, ruled himself out as a gubernatorial candidate in February, saying he was not willing to make the compromises needed to raise campaign funds.
But at yesterday's annual convention of the Maryland GOP here, Pascal told local party chairman he would be willing to enter the race if he could raise enough money to increase his name recognition through the mass media.
Pascal, a former state senator and now the chief executive of the sprawling suburban county north and east of Prince George's County and south of Baltimore, is the only tested Republican even close to entering the race in a year when the Democrats face a divisive primary fight. Though they overwhelm the Republicans in party registration, the Democrats are considered unusually vulverable because of the conviction of Democratic Gov. Marvin Mandel on political corruption charges last August.
Pascal's entrance would make it easier for former Anne Arundel county executive Joseph W. Alton Jr. to regain his old office. Alton, who recently completed a prison term for corruption, has said he is seriously considering running for county executive.
"In Prince George's and Montgomery County, the question is, 'Pascal who?'" Pascal told reporters after the closed-door meeting. "What do they have in those counties? One and a half, 2 million people? That's a lot of people to get to in a few months. That's where the money comes in."
Pascal said he is encouraged by plans of party leaders to host a "Tribute to Gerald R. Ford" in the Baltimore suburbs June 13. Proceeds from the $100-a-ticket affair will be given to the state GOP for election purposes.
Pascal, 43, who became county executive in 1974, said he would need at least $400,000 for the first phase of a campaign for the Sept. 12 primary and another $400,000 to defeat a Democratic candidate in November.
"A 'good showing,' a 'strong, respectable race' are not phrases I like too well," he said in an interview. "I never got anything from losing except that I don't like the experience."
Pascal's candidacy has been encouraged by party leaders who believe they have the best chance of capturing the state house since Spiro T. Agnew marched through divided Democratic ranks in 1966.
A former All-American halfback at Duke University, Pascal is considered an attractive candidate with the ability to pull votes from normally Democratic strongholds in Baltimore and Prince George's County. An Italian-American, he began his career as a Democrat and has long friendships with leaders of that party throughout the state.
Thus far, only two candidates have openly sought the Republican nomination. They are John Hardwicke, 51, a Baltimore lawyer and former Harford County councilman and member of the House of Delegates and Donald Devine, 41, the GOP's parliamentarian who is an associate professor of government at the University of Maryland.
Both lack the name recognition and political base considered necessary to defeat the Democratic nominee.
While Pascal was counseling with party chairmen in his hotel suite, Hardwicke called a press conference in his room where he told reporters, "I'm in this race to stay.I'm not in this to be a lieutenant governor or an attorney general's candidate."