On July 3, the filing deadline for candidates in Maryland's political races, it rained all day. Airplanes quartered at the small airports around the state were grounded by the weather. Steve Sachs began to worry. Maybe the rumors were true, he told his campaign aides, that Maryland Attorney General Francis B. Burch could be making a last-minute change in his campaign strategy.
Burch had spent the holiday weekend in Ocean City, at his beachfront condominium. He had planned to file his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for governor on the last day. He had said he would fly to Annapolis from Ocean City. But here is was two o'clock in the afternoon, and Burch had not arrived. The private plane he was to travel in was fogged in. Would he file, and for what office?
Steve Sachs ordered a press conference, tentatively scheduled for July 5. His aides called reporters to ask them to attend Sach's news event should Burch decide to run against Sachs in the Democratic primary for attorney general.The rumors had been strong all week, the aides said, Burch may be plotting strategy to out-for Sachs
Sachs' fears came to nothing. Burch drove up to the office of the Board of Election supervisors in Annapolis about 5 p.m.,filled out the forms and became an official candidate in the Democratic gubernatorial race.
Burch has disappeared from Sachs' pantheon of secret trouble-makers. As a former U.S. attorney for Maryland, Sachs grew accustomed to searching out conspiracies. He made a national reputation as an aggressive prosecutor of crimes of political corruption. After he left that office he became a well-paid Baltimore attorney specializing in defending people accused of white-collar crimes.
Because of his career as a federal prosecutor in the 60's, Sachs said he now fears that someone is out to sabotage his campaign. Last week another press conference was scheduled, one which was actually held.
A coffee urn was set up at the rear of the H. L. Mencken room at the Baltimore Hilton Hotel, chairs were placed in rows facing a podium and Sachs stood at the microphone reading from a prepared text. He reviewed his favorite campaign issues and then said he wanted to"get something off my chest."
St Sachs announced that he was on the "hit list" of Irvin kovens, the convicted co-defendant of suspended Maryland Governor Marvin Mandel. Sachs said he was proud of that.
"My kind of political independence and my record in public office as a corruption fighter have bruised Mr. Kovens before," he said. Sachs had been out of office for more than a decade, however, when Kovens was convicted by federal prosecutors of political corruption.
Sachs accused Kovens of masterminding a concerted campaign to undermine his candidacy. He said he believes Kovens will mount a smear campaign against him and that he will try to "dupe" Sachs' opponents by funneling money into their campaigns.
When Sachs was asked for proof of this Kovens conspiracy, he repeated what he called "circumstantial evidence."
A mutual friend of an East Baltimore attorney had told Sachs that Kovens approached the attorney, who no longer lived in East Baltimore but who had grown up there, and asked the attorney to run against Sachs.
Could Sachs name the mutual friend or name the attorney? No, Sachs would not reveal his sources.
Sachs gave another exmple. He said an official in one of the gubernatorial campaigns told him that this official received a call from Kovens and Kovens said that he was "determined to bury"Sachs. Again, no names.
Finally, Sachs told the story of a member of a state commission who, "almost tear in eye," told Sachs he could not work on Sachs' campaign because he owed his state job to Kovens and he did not want to lost it. Did Sachs believe that Kovens had enough influence to force a state employe out of his position simply because he was campaigning for Sachs? Frankly no, Sachs replied, but that is the way people think in Maryland.
Sachs was asked if he were not smearing Kovens and whether he had enough proof of this conspiracy by Kovens to present it to a jury in a criminal court.
Sachs said he found this line of questioning by the reporters, to be "precious." The reporters had interviewed Kovens, Sachs said; they knew he disliked Sachs.
Sachs was asked whether he was "running from Kovens or with him?"
"No, Mr. Kovens has interjected himself in this race. You may say I raise the issue but I think it's an enormously important issue in this state," Sachs answered.
Kovens, working full time at his furniture store and worrying about his chances to win an appeal next week to overturn his conviction, has not been pleased by Sachs' attempt to make him a campaign issue. Kovens said that on the advice of his attorney he is not participating in any campaign this year,especailly Steve Sachs' campaign.