Rep. Robert E. Bauman (R-Md.), his political future threatened by public disclosures of alcoholism and alleged homosexual activity, told applauding supporters at his home here tonight that he will stay in the race for reelection.
Bauman, 43, received a standing ovation at the end of a closed two-hour meeting attended by about 50 supporters, according to several participants.
"We've got a winner" said Harley Williams of Cecil County. "He's going to run and run hard."
According to a staff member, Bauman will make a public statement of his campaign plans on Wednesday.
Dr. Emory Linder, cochairman of Bauman's campaign in Harford County, said there was "a back and forth exchange" but that most of the discussion centered on how to conduct the campaign, rather than about Bauman's appearance in a District of Columbia court last week.
Many of those leaving the long tree-lined drive of Bauman's historic white, frame farmhouse shouted their support for the nationally known conservative.
"I found out he's still the greatest," yelled one man.
"We're behind him 110 percent," said another.
The crowd of state Republican Party officials, county chairman and leaders of Bauman's campaign effort found the normally quiet country road in front of Bauman's home transformed into a bustling traffic jam of reporters, trucks, TV cameras and police cars. The scene did not sit well with at least one local farmer, who drove by and yelled, "Why don't you leave the guy alone?"
The meeting was Bauman's first step back into the political arena since last week, when he agreed to undergo court-supervised rehabilitation rather than face trial on a charge of soliciting sex from a 16 year-old boy. As part of the court agreement Bauman was allowed to plead innocent.
The general feeling expressed by those who participated in the meeting was that the disclosures have weakened Bauman but not defeated him. Linder acknowledged that "we have lost a superior edge" against Democrat Roy Dyson. "Now it's a close race," Linder said.
Arlene Baybutt, a psychiatric nurse from Easton and secretary of the Maryland Republican Party, said Bauman's explanation "was just exactly what I thought. He's an alcoholic," she said, adding that the congressman's admission will be "a boon to alcoholics."
Asked whether Bauman discussed the allegations of homosexuality, Baybutt said, "In the blackout stage of alcoholism a person develops complete reverse personality."
Chester Price, a campaign adviser from Bel Air, said that Bauman was "very straightforward -- to stand before a group and bare his soul, that's very courageous."
Asked about reports that Bauman regularly visited gay bars in Washington, Price said that those in attendance "got the impression that those reports have not been substantiated."
State Republican Party Chairman Allen Levey said Bauman told him yesterday of his definite intention to remain in the race and also of his anger over published reports in recent days citing law enforcement sources as saying Bauman had frequently solicited sex in Washington's gay bars.
"He feels that he pled innocent to a charge, and these things are coming out that he knows nothing about and he doesn't know who his accusers are," Levey said.
Bauman was portrayed last week by law enforcement officials as a desparate man who for months frequented Washington's homosexual nightlife scene, driving from gay bar to gay bar in a car easily identified by its congressional license plates.
The charge that brought Bauman to D.C. Superior Court last week stemmed from an incident last March when Bauman allegedly solicited sex from a teenager at a gay bar on Ninth Street and later performed oral sodomy on the youth in a Northwest apartment, according to law enforcement sources.
Bauman has not responded publicly to those allegations, but instead released a statement saying that he has had "an increasingly serious personal problem with the consumption of alcohol" and that this year he turned for help to his priest, a psychologist and Alcoholics Anonymous.