A leading abortion-rights group, pleased with victories in several primary races but mindful that "the fight's not over," announced yesterday a slate of candidates it will support in the November campaigns for the Maryland Senate and House of Delegates.
"We can't take the primary victories for granted," said Steven Rivelis, chairman of Choice PAC, which raised $40,000 for the primary campaign. "The fight's not over. The fight's never over."
Choice PAC, along with groups such as the Maryland affiliate of the National Abortion Rights Action League, is working to elect a "filibuster-proof" Senate -- one in which anti-abortion senators could not block a bill that would protect the right to abortion.
Five Senate candidates and 23 House candidates won the Choice PAC endorsement.
Among the Senate candidates is J. Jeffrey Griffith, a Democrat running in District 5, Baltimore and Carroll counties.
Mr. Griffith, a Carroll County commissioner, is running against Larry E. Haines, an anti-abortion Republican who defeated incumbent Sen. Sharon W. Hornberger in the primary. Senator Hornberger supports the right to abortion.
Yesterday, Mr. Griffith said abortion is "the issue that's going to turn this race. Absolutely." He said surveys show that by a 2-1 margin, voters in his largely rural district favor keeping abortion widely available.
"That's the first thing a lot of people ask me -- 'Are you pro-choice or not?' " Mr. Griffith said. "I'm not necessarily thrilled that that's going to be the central issue. There are a lot of other issues to talk about out here. But my opponent's making it the issue."
Mr. Haines -- who, unlike Mr. Griffith, thinks the majority of voters in his district oppose abortion -- said he doesn't believe Choice PAC's support of Mr. Griffith will make any difference.
"They supported my opponent in the primary election, and I won with 58 percent of the vote," Mr. Haines said. "I would expect them to endorse Mr. Griffith. Everyone knows what a liberal he is."
In Baltimore County, Republican Sen. F. Vernon Boozer said he welcomes the endorsement in his race against Kauleo H. Kokkonen.
Political advisers around the country say that candidates who support abortion rights improve their chances of victory. Mr. Boozer said he backs the right to abortion because "I felt in my heart of hearts it's the right thing, not because I thought it was a winning issue. My conscience dictated it."
Delegate Robert J. DiPietro, endorsed along with Delegate William C. Bevan in District 13B, Howard and Prince George's counties, said he believes abortion is an issue that "doesn't belong being decided by bureaucrats and politicians and judges. My district is clearly pro-choice. The Republican candidates are pro-life candidates."
With yesterday's announcement, Choice PAC became the first of the major groups involved in the abortion issue to reveal its endorsements.
The Maryland affiliate of the National Abortion Rights Action League, which also supported several successful abortion-rights candidates in the primary, will announce its endorsements Tuesday.
The Maryland Right to Life Political Action Committee, which won fewer of the primary battles than the abortion-rights groups, has nearly completed its selections, Michael W. Burns, the group's chairman, said yesterday.
Right to Life raised more than $60,000 during the primary campaign on behalf of candidates who oppose abortion. But the committee never publicized its endorsements, preferring not to make public its work on behalf of a slate.
Mr. Burns said yesterday that he is not certain if Right to Life will announce which candidates it supports for the general election.
Choice PAC intends to raise another $40,000 for the November election, Mr. Rivelis said, though he acknowledged that funds are coming in slowly. "We're going to everybody who gave before and saying, 'Give again,' " he said.
Despite several successes in the primary, Mr. Rivelis said, backers of abortion rights cannot relax. "The pro-choice community made that mistake in 1973 with Roe vs. Wade," the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that made abortion legal, he said. "We sat back and said, 'OK, the fight's over.' The fight's never over."
He said the House of Delegates "probably has a pro-choice majority now, but there are so many seats contested. We need insurance in the House."
Choice PAC's list
Here is a list of candidates endorsed by Choice PAC, an abortion-rights fund-raising group, in the Nov. 6 election:
District 5, Baltimore and Carroll counties: J. Jeffrey Griffith, D.
District 9, Central Baltimore County: F. Vernon Boozer, R.*
District 14, Howard and Montgomery counties: Edward J. Kasemeyer, D.*
District 15, Montgomery County: Laurence Levitan, D.*
District 29, Anne Arundel, Calvert and St. Mary's counties: Denzil Pritchard, R.
District 2C, Washington County: Bertrand Iseminger, R.
District 3B, Frederick and Washington counties: Royd Smith, D*; James E. McClellan, D*.
District 4A, Frederick County: George H. Littrell Jr., D*; Thomas H. Hattery, D*.
District 5, Baltimore and Carroll counties: Ellen L. Willis, D.
District 8, Eastern Baltimore County: Donna M. Felling, D.*
District 9, Central Baltimore County: John J. Bishop, R*; Charles Culbertson, D; Gerry Brewster, D.
District 10, Central Baltimore County: Ellery Woodworth, D.
District 13B, Howard and Prince George's counties: William C. Bevan, D*; Robert J. DiPietro, D.*
District 15, Montgomery County: Gene W. Counihan, D*; Rosemary Glynn, D; Sally McGarry, D.
District 31, Anne Arundel County: W. Ray Huff, D*; James J. Riley, R.
District 33, Anne Arundel County: Bill Bulison, D; Sabina N. Bosman, D.
District 35, Cecil and Harford counties: Dorothy P. Stancill, R; Donald C. Fry, D.
District 38, Somerset, Wicomico and Worchester counties: M. Kirk Daugherty, D.
* Denotes incumbent.