Maryland Gov. Harry Hughes moved to reverse criticism of his inaccessibility in recent months with a three-hour appearance on a Baltimore radio talk show tonight that featured nearly as many compliments as criticisms from callers.
Hughes, wearing headphones and reading glasses and dragging on an occasional cigarette, seemed relaxed as he fielded questions from more than 40 mostly polite callers to the Joe Lombardo show on WBAL radio in Baltimore from 8 to 11 p.m.
Although many of the callers were savings and loan depositors asking how to get access to frozen funds, some others said they didn't have money tied up in the state's troubled thrift organizations and were concerned about the use of state funds to repay such depositors.
The rest covered a variety of concerns. A housewife named Janice wanted job-hunting tips; a man named George was concerned about declining business at the Port of Baltimore. Callers identified themselves only by their first names.
A few callers, such as Marge, who phoned in after 10 p.m, were interested in the political future of Hughes, who cannot succeed himself after two terms and is considered a likely candidate for the U.S. Senate.
"Respectfully, governor," she said, "I have never supported you for governor, I'd like to know why I should support you for the U.S. Senate."
Hughes chuckled at the comment, then, following a pattern he has demonstrated in other recent public appearances, he reiterated his accomplishments in office. These included, he said, beginning the Chesapeake Bay clean-up program, increasing aid to education and keeping unemployment low and taxes down.
And, in one of his most definitive statements yet about his intentions, he declared that his decision-making experience "would be helpful in Washington."
David Barrett, vice president and general manager of WBAL radio, said Hughes accepted the station's offer late last week to appear on the show. He said Hughes agreed to the usual terms surrounding appearances on the show -- that callers would be screened but censored only for profanity or signs of instability.
Hughes said he was not surprised by the few hostile calls he did receive, such as from Mary, a depositor at Old Court Savings & Loan, who lambasted him for his plan to give those depositors access to their frozen funds in monthly payments starting next month but lasting until 1990.
"I don't understand you, governor," said Mary. "I hope I live that long." Hughes gently replied, "I do too."
Mary continued, "We have saved all our lives, then to end up like this is just too much. I hope the rest of the world feels like my husband and I do, like we've been crucified."
But not all was anger and irritation toward Hughes.
Several callers had compliments for Hughes' handling of the job, including Bob, who told Hughes how much he appreciated the Chesapeake Bay clean-up, and Mike, who simply called to say, "Keep up the good work and hang in there."
Hughes, who had collected a pageful of names for constituent service requests throughout the evening, quipped, "You can leave your name and address, too."