Gov. William Donald Schaefer took another step toward his last term as governor yesterday, overcoming a stronger-than-expected challenge from his Democratic opponent in a election where anti-incumbent sentiment swept several veteran state legislators out of office.
Though heavily outspent by Mr. Schaefer, Frederick M. Griisser Jr., the real estate agent and gun advocate, seemed to achieve his objective: serving as a rallying point for those who were unhappy with Mr. Schaefer's performance.
Marylanders turned out for the primary in extremely low numbers -- no more than 35 percent of registered voters, according to state election officials.
In the fall's general election, Mr. Schaefer will face Republican William S. Shepard, a retired foreign service officer, who defeated Dr. Ross Z. Pierpont, the surgeon and perennial candidate from Baltimore.
Speaking after much of the vote was in last night, Mr. Schaefer said he would not have been surprised to see an even stronger showing by Mr. Griisser. And Brad Coker, president of Mason-Dixon Opinion Research in Columbia, said a larger turnout might well have driven Mr. Griisser's vote total even higher.
"There still are some people upset over the gun ban legislation, some people are upset over taxes and there's an anti-incumbent mood out there," Mr. Coker said. Almost anyone in the race against Mr. Schaefer, he said, would have been a point around which an anti-vote coalesced.
The anti-incumbent sentiment reported by Mr. Coker and others was readily apparent in yesterday's results as at least four members of the state Senate -- and the House Majority Leader, John S. Arnick, D-Baltimore County -- were defeated. Mr. Arnick, who lost by 30 votes despite assistance from Governor Schaefer, might still retain his seat if he wins enough of the absentee ballots. Each of the four beaten senators had been leaders of the Senate's anti-abortion forces.
The evidence of an anti-Schaefer protest in yesterday's results, Mr. Shepard said, are a good portent for him.
"The governor went away during the campaign. He did his three trips overseas. And now there's a protest vote. We didn't go away. We got stronger," he said. Today, he will re-issue his debate challenge to Mr. Schaefer.
In the 1st Congressional District, Representative Roy P. Dyson won the Democratic nomination, holding off his chief Democratic rival, Harford County Delegate Barbara O. Kreamer.
Despite the unhappiness with some incumbents, all other members of the House of Representatives from Maryland defeated their challengers easily.
For the ninth time, Democratic Party voters nominated Louis L. Goldstein, 77, as their candidate for comptroller. Mr. Goldstein, who has served in the post since 1958, was opposed in the primary by Kenneth N. Frederick, 58, a mechanical contractor from Catonsville.
Mr. Goldstein's general election opponent will be Larry Epstein, a Baltimore County accountant running for public office for the first time.
Democratic Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. was unopposed. In the general election, Mr. Curran faces Republican Edward L. Blanton Jr., a Towson lawyer, who was also unopposed in the primary.
Mr. Schaefer's challenger, Mr. Griisser, based his race on the hope that he could tap into a protest vote. He had virtually no money and no campaign organization.
Essentially ignoring his primary opponent, the 68-year-old Mr. Schaefer spent much of the campaign season traveling on economic development missions to Scandinavia and Taiwan. But the last two weeks, he has kept a tight schedule of campaign appearances.
The absence of a severe challenge left him free to work for legislators whose support he will need in the General Assembly over the next four years -- where some members may begin to think of him as a lame duck. After a second term, he would not be allowed under the Maryland Constitution to succeed himself.
In pursuit of allies, Mr. Schaefer gave about $150,000 to legislative candidates -- far more campaign money than his opponent even raised. And in the closing days of the campaign, the governor campaigned at subway stops, attended rallies, made radio commercials and urged his own supporters to vote for the legislators he identified as sympathetic to his programs in Annapolis. The results of his efforts were mixed.
"Tonight," Mr. Schaefer said in a brief victory speech at Baltimore's School for the Arts, "we start again with another election and, if we are successful, the day the votes are counted we start with a new, not the same, administration with new thoughts, new ideas, new approachs from people."
Schaefer administration aides said the next Schaefer administration would include new faces.
In their gubernatorial faceoff, the Republicans were more evenly matched.
Mr. Shepard said he undertook the race for governor this year partly as an exercise in party building. But when he made his wife, Lois, his running mate he threatened to split the party wide open.