Maryland Gov. Harry Hughes, an expected candidate for U.S. Senate this year whose standing in public opinion surveys has plummeted in recent months, partially attributed the decline today to "inaccurate" press reports on the state's nine-month savings and loan crisis.
Pressed for specifics, Hughes labeled "absolutely untrue" one anecdote contained in a cover article on him in this month's Regardie's magazine. The article incorrectly reported that Hughes was at a going-away party for one of his staff when he was told that the press had uncovered a memo warning him of potential savings and loan problems well in advance of the crisis.
In fact, Hughes was in his office Oct. 25 when an aide informed him that the press was aware of the memo.
The governor promised to provide the State House press corps with other examples in the future. "If you'll give me some time, let me go back and get some of the clippings, I can find many of them."
Hughes, who conceded that his own "silence" on the savings and loan issue during much of last fall contributed to his poor showing in recent surveys, predicted that the decline would be only "temporary."
"I think things are changing now because I believe the people of Maryland are realizing that the way we approached this very difficult problem was the proper way to do it," said Hughes. ". . . We are moving now and we're turning it around."
As recently as September, some polls showed Hughes as one of two Democratic front-runners to take over the Senate seat held by Charles McC. Mathias Jr. But within only a few weeks -- after the memo's existence was disclosed by The Washington Post -- he was badly trailing one of the three challengers, U.S. Rep. Barbara Mikulski.
Since the opening of the legislative session early last month, Hughes has taken a number of decisive steps to bolster his standing, including an address on the savings and loan issue on state-wide television and replacement of his longtime press secretary.
Hughes today insisted today that the reassignment of his press aide, Lou Panos, had nothing to do with politics, even as he acknowledged that M. Hirsh Goldberg, Panos' replacement, was suggested by one of the governor's political consultants.