Baltimore County Executive Donald P. Hutchinson, a candidate for the U.S. Senate, pointedly criticized his two leading opponents yesterday as ineffective legislators, and dismissed the remaining Democratic contender, Gov. Harry Hughes, as an insignificant factor in the race because of the savings and loan crisis.
Hutchinson, a Democrat who trails Rep. Barbara Mikulski in all published polls and Rep. Michael D. Barnes in some of them, said: "I don't think you have seen Barbara Mikulski or Mike Barnes on the solution side of any tough governmental issue that this government's had to confront over the last 10 years. I haven't seen them on the solution side, neither one of them."
Saying his background in local Maryland government has prepared him best among the candidates for the Senate by teaching him to make tough fiscal decisions, Hutchinson had particularly harsh words for Mikulski, the Baltimore representative whom he acknowledged as the current front-runner even in his own home base of Baltimore County:
"I think Barbara Mikulski likes to raise hell without worrying about results . . . . I don't think Barbara's had an impact on this Congress. I don't think Barbara Mikulski has accomplished one thing, as a member of the United States Congress, that has had a lasting impact upon our state, or upon our country, not one thing."
And, although he agreed on some foreign policy questions with Barnes, a four-term congressman from Montgomery County who has won national recognition for his chairmanship of the subcommittee on Western Hemisphere affairs, Hutchinson said: "Mike Barnes is not a leader of the United States Congress; he's the leader of one small subcommittee that's relatively inconsequential."
Of Hughes, he said, "I don't even think you talk about the governor in this campaign."
Hutchinson's remarks came during an two-hour interview with reporters and editors of The Washington Post that included some of the strongest comments made by any candidate in the crowded bid to capture the Senate seat being vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Charles McC. Mathias Jr.
Mathias' departure has attracted at least four potential Democratic contenders and three Republicans to the race, though several, including Hughes, a Democrat, and White House aide Linda Chavez, a Republican, remain unannounced.
In yesterday's interview, Hutchinson repeated his intention to position himself as a member of the "the mainstream of the middle part of the [Democratic] Party," hoping voters will select him as an alternative to what he called "the traditional liberal Democratic" approaches espoused by Barnes and Mikulski.
Hughes, Hutchinson said, "is finished. With the savings and loan issue, there's no way, one, he can reachieve the status he had before the savings and loan issue hit, and two, there's no place for him to go for his votes."
Informed of his comments, Mikulski and Barnes campaign representatives dismissed Hutchinson's remarks as uninformed.
Wendy Sherman, Mikulski's campaign manager, said, "I've always seen Don Hutchinson as a responsible public official and it's hard for me to believe he'd make such statements, which have nothing to do with reality."
Said John Willis, Barnes' campaign manager, "Well, you know, those kinds of remarks just show Mr. Hutchinson's unfamiliarity with Washington. It's easy to lob shots at an institution when you don't have much knowledge about it."
Hirsh Goldberg, an aide to Hughes, pointed to what he termed the governor's "incredible record of achievement" in office. "The message is still getting out among the public," he said. "He's obviously far from finished."