Ehrlich decides against bid to challenge Piccinini

September 21, 1990|By Thomas W. Waldronand Larry Carson | Thomas W. Waldronand Larry Carson,Evening Sun Staff

Republican Del. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. today ruled out any plan to switch and fight Democrat Janice Piccinini for the state Senate seat in Baltimore County's 10th Legislative District.

Ehrlich said he would stay in the campaign to keep his seat in the House of Delegates rather than risk losing a Senate bid. Ehrlich said, though, that he had been promised strong support if he decided to race against Piccinini.

After a week of discussion, Del. Ellen R. Sauerbrey also said she will continue to seek re-election to the House of Delegates.

bTC Sauerbrey and Ehrlich, who also won his primary, began weighing a Senate bid after Piccinini won an upset victory in the Sept. 11 Democratic primary over 12-year incumbent Francis X. Kelly.

Piccinini, the former head of the state teachers' union, highlighted her support for abortion rights during a grueling primary campaign. Kelly was one of the leaders of the anti-abortion movement in Annapolis.

Both Sauerbrey and Ehrlich said that Piccinini is too liberal for the district, which includes part of Towson, Ruxton, Lutherville and Cockeysville.

However, Sauerbrey said she didn't want to give up the power she has amassed in three terms in the House, where she now serves as minority leader.

"I have wrestled with this, but the right decision for me and the people I represent is to stay the course in the House," Sauerbrey said.

Richard M. Cornwell, a farmer from the northern county, ran unopposed for the Republican nomination for the Senate. But Cornwell, who is not considered a strong candidate, said he was willing to pull out of the race to make room for Sauerbrey or Ehrlich.

Ehrlich said a quick poll taken this week showed he had a good chance against Piccinini. But the poll, which Ehrlich said was paid for by "business interests" whom he would not identify, drew quick criticism from some of the people surveyed.

Four women who were called by a pollster Tuesday night said that they were offended by some of the questions, which seemed to imply that Piccinini favors abortion through all nine months of pregnancy, a large increase in the state sales tax and a commuter tax on county residents who work in Baltimore.

The poll was done at the behest of a group called Maryland Business for Responsive Government, said Robert O.C. "Rocky" Worcester, its president.

Worcester said his group paid $1,000 and other people outside the group paid for the rest. He defended the poll as "boilerplate."

"I believe that everything used was taken from campaign literature or quotes," he said. "There was no attempt to discredit anybody."

The group's members often are members of the county Chamber of Commerce, too, he said, but there are no official links.

The four women said the poll seemed more an attempt to influence their votes than to gather information.

Piccinini said the questions about her positions are "misrepresentations" and misleading. Worcester said his group feels Piccinini is "vastly out of step with her district" on business-related issues. He called the defeat of Kelly a "travesty a miscarriage" based one one issue -- abortion. He said the 10th legislative district is business' strongest in the state, in terms of the attitudes of voters, but said Piccinini doesn't fit that mold.

The women interviewed -- Diana LeDonne, Diana Carton, Winifred Codd, a Democratic candidate for County Council in the primary, and Dr. Joanne Waeltermann -- all described the information on which the questions were based as innuendo and a distortion of Piccinini's positions.

Piccinini said she supports the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe vs. Wade abortion ruling, but not abortion through all nine months of pregnancy.

The court's decision upheld a woman's right to privacy and protected her decision whether or not to bear a child during the first trimester of pregnancy. The court said that during the second trimester, the state may regulate abortions, and during the third trimester may forbid all abortions except those necessary to save the mother's life.

Piccinini said she has not discussed the sales tax and has not advocated raising it, nor does she advocate a commuter tax.

However, Ehrlich said that in 1986, Piccinini supported a proposal by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stephen H. Sachs to raise the sales tax by 1 cent and dedicate that money to education.

Ehrlich and Sauerbrey said they had no knowledge of the contents of the questions.

"It's not valid to do anything that improperly states a person's positions," Sauerbrey said.

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