Top echelon Republicans met yesterday to declare themselves united and ready to work for the defeat of Democrats in the general election and "to change the politics of Maryland."
Joyce L. Terhes, the party chairwoman, observed that Maryland Republicans had not filed so complete a slate of candidates since 1978.
The party's candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and comptroller were meeting for breakfast at the call of Representative Helen Delich Bentley, R-Md.-2nd.
But when asked if she would actively campaign for William S. Shepard, the party's candidate for governor, Mrs. Bentley said, "I'll be actively campaigning for the ticket which includes the Shepards." Then she observed that she is running for re-election herself and that work in Washington would demand a lot of her time.
The meeting was at the Sheraton International Hotel at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
Questions about commitment to the ticket were directed specifically to Mrs. Bentley, the party's national committeewoman, because it was at her urging that Dr. Ross Z. Pierpont opposed Mr. Shepard in the GOP primary, in which he won about 48 percent of the vote. Mrs. Bentley recruited Dr. Pierpont because she was unhappy with Mr. Shepard's decision to choose his wife, Lois, as his lieutenant governor running-mate.
And there was one more reason for the questions. Mrs. Bentley has been a close ally of the incumbent Democrat, Gov. William Donald Schaefer, particularly on matters involving the port of Baltimore. She was asked yesterday if she finds it difficult to work against Mr. Schaefer.
"It's not easy, but it's politics," she said with a smile.
Asked why she thinks Maryland needs a new governor, she said, "I just think we need a change down the line in everything. We need a two-party system. It is time for a change."
She offered no criticism of Mr. Schaefer or his record.
Lois Shepard showed no such restraint.
The Shepard team, she said, is determined to rid Maryland of what she called "Chicago-style" machine politics. By this she was referring to what she called election-year goodies for various Maryland jurisdictions.
Some $12.5 million was sent to her own home county, Montgomery, on primary eve, she said.
"[That money] was given at a strategic time for a strategic reason," she said. The result, she added, is that others who deserve some of the government's limited resources don't get it. The "Chicago-style" process, she said, leaves people feeling left out.
"People want to be heard," Mrs. Shepard said. "They're tired of being patronized. . . . They don't want the glitzy projects. They don't want policy by political fiat and political payoff."
Asked if she would be the tough-talking point-person of the campaign, Mrs. Shepard said her husband had designated her to handle the budget -- and she has found her analysis of it so far frustrating, she said, which puts a certain edge on her words.
Mr. Shepard, a 55-year-old retired foreign service officer, said Maryland under Mr. Schaefer has run aground -- on deficit-spending, on big projects and on lack of planning.
"This is not Bangladesh," he said. "This is Maryland. We shouldn't be broke. The deficit is not the result of some macro-economic forces. The deficit is here because of mismanagement."
Although the state faces significant new school construction, public transportation and prison costs, Mr. Shepard said again that new taxes -- even an increase in the gasoline tax -- are not needed. The state's "burden," he repeated, "is not being undertaxed. The burden is mismanagement."
Mr. Shepard also said:
* He would seek private funding for a new football stadium should the National Football League elect to put a franchise in Baltimore. He said he believes that the NFL has been dealing in Maryland with "minor leaguers who don't know how to negotiate," a characterization which included Governor Schaefer. If depending on private resources pushed the NFL to a city or state willing to build with taxpayer money, he said, so be it.
"I think the state has other priorities," he said.
* He reissued his debate challenge and said a debate of sorts is already under way: "I'm saying things and he's responding." As he attacks Mr. Schaefer's stewardship, Mr. Shepard said, the governor has responded by "portraying himself as a responsible fiscal conservative." This informal debate has developed, Mr. Shepard said, as a result of "what I'm saying and what his polls are telling him."
A requested response from Governor Schaefer or his spokesman was not immediately available.
* Asked if he thought Mrs. Bentley's endorsement of his candidacy was a bit strained, he said, "Only she could make this gesture [of unity]. And she did."
Carol Hirschburg, one of the congresswoman's campaign aides, said, "If Helen didn't want to be here, you couldn't have dragged her here."