Confused about the coming election with all of the claims and counter-claims about caps and deficits and spending? You are not alone. Political professionals in both parties are equally confused. A bundle of polls that point in different directions has them pondering.
Polls don't purport to give the results of a coming election. They are usually described as snapshots in time, measuring opinion on one, two or three days -- opinion that is subject to change. These snapshots, however, give valuable clues on the direction of a race, and usually offer suggestions about how a candidate might act.
In Baltimore County's 10th Election District primary, a poll indicated to challenger Janice Piccinini that she could win if she hammered the point that incumbent Sen. Frank Kelly was against the choice position on abortion. Over half the voters questioned didn't know Kelly's position, the polls indicated. Kelly was painted with his pro-life stance. The results are history.
Now polls differ. In the 1st Congressional District, The Sun's poll conducted by KPC Research of Charlotte, N.C., showed Democratic Rep. Roy Dyson ahead of his GOP challenger, Wayne T. Gilchrest by a 48 to 42 percent margin. GOP officials privately doubt these results. Another survey taken about the same time for the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee shows an opposite snapshot, Gilchrest ahead by a 6-point margin.
There are even greater disparities in the Baltimore County executive race.
The KCP survey, which questioned 579 potential voters by a random-dialing method, gave the incumbent Democrat, Dennis F. Rasmussen, a 52 to 36 percent lead (with 12 percent undecided) over the GOP challenger, Roger B. Hayden.
GOP officials say they don't believe this snapshot of a 16-point Rasmussen lead. They have a GOP poll taken a little earlier that shows Rasmussen with a lead of only 5 percent and higher
negatives than the KCP survey. They are not making it public, however.
Another poll, which questioned about double the number of people in the KCP survey and used voter lists, not random-dialing, had the two candidates 2 points apart, a neck-and-neck contest. These results were learned from informed sources who declined to be identified. So take your choice. Rasmussen is either coasting to victory or in the battle of his political life.
Equally puzzling to GOP officials is the 69 to 18 percent lead for Gov. William Donald Schaefer over the Republican nominee, William Shepard. It seems far too high to them. In the Democratic primary, Schaefer won easily, but 22 percent of the vote went to challenger Fred Griisser. If Griisser got that much of a protest vote from Democrats alone, shouldn't Shepard get more with his Republican support? GOP officials do not argue that Schaefer is in any danger of losing the race but they are confident the gap isn't that wide.
By the way: William and Lois Shepard, the GOP gubernatorial team, have been "Maryland homeowners" since 1967. But, for whatever reasons, they didn't become registered Maryland voters at home-ownership time. They first registered in Montgomery County in early September 1985. So, by a couple of months, they did qualify to run for the state's chief executive positions. The constitution requires five years residence and five years as a registered voter to run for governor. Shepard served much of the time abroad between 1967 and 1985 and was a resident of New Hampshire in those years.
Thanks to Montgomery County Executive Sidney Kramer's decision to accept a write-in campaign in what old friends call a tragic-comic attempt to reverse his loss to Neal Potter in the Democratic primary, there's still a modicum of interest left in the November election. Kramer's been calling old friends around the state and pleading for money, insisting that he can win, win, win. Few are buying the pitch. New samplings indicate Kramer is likely to suffer an even greater ego-crushing defeat in November, something he doesn't need.
Over in Prince George's County, former State's Attorney Arthur A. "Bud" Marshall is seeking to overturn his loss four years ago in the Democratic primary to State's Attorney Alexander Williams Jr. Marshall turned Republican for another try. The pros regard it as something close to futile. Marshall would need a heavy turnout and some 60 percent of the Democratic vote to make it back.
The talk on the street is that Del. David B. Shapiro, who finished a losing fourth in the city's 42nd Legislative District primary, is planning a comeback. Next year. City Council. And, it is said, as a Republican.
The word from Speaker Clayton Mitchell is that no decisions on committee assignments will be made until after the general election. Will House Majority Leader John Arnick try for the Judiciary Committee chair? Arnick, now out of shock after his six-vote primary victory, says he isn't sure what he wants.