Rockville City Council member Ken Sullivan had what he called a simple question yesterday for Harry R. Hughes and J. Glenn Beall, Maryland's two candidates for governor. He wanted to know, specifically, what state spending each considered wasteful.
"I can't give you specific examples or priorities," said Democrat Hughes.
"I can't be specific yet either," said Republican Beall. "I can't give you a priority list."
The response Sullivan got was typical of the candidates' answers to repeated demands by 100 local officials during a Maryland Municipal League luncheon in Rockville yesterday for commitments and details on municipal policy.
Hughes and Beall stressed the themes they had prepared for municipal leaders, particularly their plans to improve lines of communication between the governor's offices and local officials.
Beall promised to make the governor's assistant for municipal affairs a full-time position, and said the municipal liaison would be "someone who always has the ear of the governor, on a daily basis."
He then told the city officials that he would become, as governor, "the best PR man the state has ever had" in an effort to attract new business and industry to Maryland.
Hughes said he would create a Maryland council on governments to represent municipalities, and promised to meet periodically with the proposed group to work on "specific problems and long-range plans for local government."
Hughes also pledged that any tax-cutting or budget-trimming during his tenure would be designed to protect local governments from having to bear heavier economic burdens because of "pressures at the state level to cut costs."
The municipal officials did pin both Hughes and Beall down on some specific points. Both candidates said they opposed property tax-slashing referendums on the local level, and promised that municipalities would be well represented on all state boards and commissions that manages local affairs. In addition, both said they would try to have police grants distributed directly from the state to municipalities, rather than through county officials.
The two differed on only one specific issue. Beall said he opposed collective bargaining by municipal employes, while Hughes said he favored it, as long as binding arbitration and strikes were not used.
Afterward, most of the local officials said they had not noticed any real differences between the two candidates, although the consensus seemed to be that Beall had presented himself more smoothly.
"I'm a Democrat and I like Hughes, but now I'm really going to have to sit down and think about it," said Frank Blackwell, Seat Pleasant council president. "Beall handled himself better, made a better impression."
Most of the local officials, however, were loyal Democrats, and most were behind Hughes. "I'm a registered Republican, but something about Hughes really appeals to me," said University Park Mayor Ruth T. Lutwack. "He has a better understanding of government."