Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stephen H. Sachs, whose aggressive enforcement of consumer protection and hazardous waste laws as Maryland attorney general have alienated some segments of the state's business community, began a formal effort tonight to erase his antibusiness image.
At a dinner hour reception in a suburban Baltimore restaurant, Sachs unveiled a 79-member Business Committee for Steve Sachs and proclaimed that the only business he is against is "monkey business."
Surrounded by several dozen supporters and members of the committee, which includes prominent city and state figures, Sachs poked fun at his reputation as a prosecutor more interested in penalizing corporate titans than encouraging them to stay in Maryland.
"Some people will be surprised there is a business committee for Sachs at all," said the attorney general. "I'm like the dog that plays chess: Never mind that he loses two out of three, it's enough that he plays at all."
Behind Sachs' levity lies a serious problem for his underdog campaign against Baltimore Mayor William D. Schaefer. Business leaders helped raise $1 million for Schaefer in a single night last fall.
Much of the animus directed at Sachs by business persons dates to the attorney general's prosecution of Fairchild Industries on water pollution charges. Fairchild subsequently moved its operations out of state. David Hirschhorn, a vice chairman of American Trading and Production Co. of Baltimore, said the Fairchild prosecution had given Sachs a "perception problem . . . . It's one case that's been exploited as if it's a pattern. Steve understands the need for the state to have a strong business environment."
David Crow, a vice president of a Frederick County high-technology firm, called Sachs' attitude toward business "refreshing." A lifelong Republican who switched his affiliation last week to vote for Sachs in the September primary, Crow said the Fairchild prosecution showed that Sachs is willing "to act on principle even at the sacrifice of political support."
Whether a business committee will make much difference as Sachs tries to overcome Schaefer's 5-to-2 lead in the polls is an open question. At least one of the attorney general's avid supporters here tonight did not think that it would matter. "Business, schmizness," said Meyer M. Emanuel Jr., a former state senator from Prince George's County. "Steve's got the votes."