Two well known Republican moderates resigned this week from the campaign steering committee of Marian Greenblatt, the Montgomery County Board of Education member seeking the GOP congressional nomination. Greenblatt's campaign chairman said she was also thinking of departing.
The resignations came two weeks after moderate school board member Elizabeth W. Spencer entered the Republican congressional primary to challenge Greenblatt.
State Sen. Howard A. Denis and Del. Constance Morella, the only elected officials on Greenblatt's committee, both said they wrote Greenblatt asking that their names be removed from the steering committee because Greenblatt is now facing a primary battle for the GOP nomination.
Her campaign chairman, Jane Gude, wife of former representative Gilbert Gude, another moderate Republican, said "I'm thinking about it" when asked if she, too, had resigned. Gude, like Denis and Morella, said she agreed to work for Greenblatt in the spring, when it was widely believed she would be unopposed for the nomination to the 8th Congressional District seat. "I feel very strongly about primaries," Mrs. Gude said. "At this moment, I guess you could say I'm undecided."
Greenblatt later talked to Gude and told a reporter, "Jane is still my campaign chairman." But Gude later repeated to a reporter, "Just say I'm undecided."
Greenblatt and her campaign manager, James Teese, spent the afternoon phoning those who either quit or were wavering. Later Greenblatt called the affair, "no big deal."
"Neither of them Denis or Morella are endorsing any other candidate . . . . All the steering committee positions are honorary anyway."
The resignations came at the same time former representative Newton Steers, who is running for lieutenant governor, said he could no longer be active on the committee because he needs more time for his own campaign.
In addition, state GOP Chairman Allan C. Levey, a Greenblatt steering committee member who is running for State Senate, said he must now remain neutral since there is a contested primary.
Privately, sources close to those Greenblatt supporters jumping ship said the GOP candidates found Greenblatt an embarrassment who could be a drag on their own campaigns. That fear mounted, said several, following a Fourth of July parade in the heavily Republican Woodacre section of Bethesda, when Greenblatt was roundly booed while riding in a convertible seated next to Morella.
"That certainly was an interesting turn of events for this particular area of Montgomery County," said Gude, who lives in the Woodacre precinct. "This is a Republican area, and they've always been a receptive, warm group. Whether it was her recent statements a charge that incumbent Democrat Michael Barnes supported the Palestine Liberation Organization or the school closings, I don't know what triggered it. But something certainly set it off. That just doesn't happen in Montgomery County. I have attended very few political gatherings where a candidate is booed."
Teese said, "I didn't hear any booing," and implied that Barnes supporters, who were giving away balloons in the audience, may have been responsible.