The Sunpapers of Baltimore have endorsed Harry Hughes in the Democratic primary for Maryland governor with an unusual series of daily editorials marked by strong criticisms of his three opponents and a lament that Hughes is being overlooked by the state's voters and political oddsmakers.
The Hughes endorsements began with an editorial Sunday in The Morning Sun, followed by a two-column, front-page editorial in The Evening Sun on Monday and another Morning Sun editorial yesterday. Although many political insiders in the state said they expected the Sunpapers would endorse Hughes, the editorials were considered unusual for their timing and stridency.
The Evening Sun, in its front-page editorial, said it was endorsing Hughes, the former state transportation secretary, "two weeks earlier than usual," in an effort to discredit the prevalent belief that only Acting Gov. Blair Lee III or Baltimore County Executive Theodore G. Venetoulis have a chance of winning the primary.
And, for the first time in several weeks, The Evening Sun introduced political geography as an issue in the race by blasting the ticket of Lee and lieutenant governor candidate Steny Hoyer, both of whom are from the Washington suburbs.
The editorial called the Lee-Hoyer alliance "disappointing" and added: "Mr. Hoyer is an attractive comer, but who in an administration so washingtonianized is to speak with conviction for Baltimore city? For its five metropolitan counties?"
The Morning Sun editorials said that Hughes offers "a rare combination: integrity, experience and compassion." The Evening Sun said of him: "Harry Hughes is on whirlwind campaigner, no spinner of utopian dreams. He is nevertheless what racing writers call the class of the field."
The Sunpapers dismissed Lee variously as "flawed by an excess of flexibility," "fumbling," and "incapable of rising to the challenge of change." Venetoulis was characterized as "politically half-grown," "one of the best practitioners of the old politics," and "an unproven administrator." The fourth candidate, Baltimore City Council President Walter Orlinsky, was dismissed as a "useful needler."
One of Lee's political aides said he did not expect the Sunpapers editorials to affect the campagin. "Hughes is running third in all the polls and will continue to run third," the adviser said. "What this might do is solidify the votes of people who wanted to go with him but were afraid they would be wasting their ballots."
Venetoulis claimed that he was "surprised and relieved" by the editorials because he feared the Sunpapers would endorse Lee.
Orlinsky said he expected the Hughes endorsements and hoped that he would benefit from what he called "an anti-Sun backlash" in working-class neighborhoods that have traditionally reacted against Sunpapers positions.