DENTON -- Smacked awake by voters to the realization he is not as popular on the Eastern Shore as he once thought, Gov. William Donald Schaefer spent yesterday trying to improve his image before the Nov. 6 election.
His problem, he said, is not that he has done too little for the Shore, but that he has failed to blow his own horn.
"I'm discouraged I can't get my message out," the governor said during a walking tour in this Caroline County seat that took him past storefronts displaying the blue-and-white signs of his Republican opponent, William S. Shepard.
"Great!" he said in disgust after seeing one Shepard sign on a real estate office next door to the Democratic headquarters. He complained that Mr. Shepard was a candidate of promises with no record, while describing himself as such a frequent visitor to the Shore that "they started to ask about my accent."
Despite his easy 77 percent-to-23 percent victory over Frederick M. Griisser Jr., a virtually unknown opponent, in the September Democratic primary, Mr. Schaefer carried only 60 percent of the vote on the Eastern Shore, faring worse here than in any other region of the state.
A Sun Poll of registered voters conducted Oct. 4-11 indicated that Mr. Schaefer's job performance and favorability ratings were lower on the Eastern Shore than anywhere else in the state. That poll also showed that in a head-to-head matchup, Mr. Shepard -- although still trailing statewide by about 20 percentage points -- would do better against the governor on the Shore than in any other part of the state.
So, yesterday, the governor loaded up his "Do It Now" bus with a half-dozen top aides, including agriculture secretary and Denton native Wayne A. Cawley Jr., and headed to Queen Anne's County (which he won by a scant 46 votes out of the 3,550 cast in the Democratic primary) and Caroline County (where he took 950 votes to Mr. Griisser's 906).
* He ate breakfast with farmers to show his interest in agriculture.
* He put on rubber boots and rolled up the trousers of his gray suit to tromp around a Sudlersville pig farm, which has won an award for controlling farm runoff, and then toured a nearby recycling site to show his concern for the Chesapeake Bay and the environment.
* He visited the rapidly expanding, French-owned Delsey luggage factory outside Denton to celebrate the fruits of his overseas economic development trips and to highlight the importance of state financing for roads and other infrastructure that made the plant's home in the new Denton Industrial Park possible.
* He toured a state-financed day-care center, visited an aquaculture farm, and met privately with county commissioners, who asked for more money for schools.
During a tour of social services offices, the governor displayed characteristic impatience when told the offices lacked space because old records took so much room.
"I should be here shaking hands," the governor muttered as he inspected the stacks of boxed records.
"But you should be concerned, too," replied Judy Turner, who jTC was conducting the tour of the Denton Multi-Purpose Center.
Although the governor's tour went smoothly, some along the way expressed misgivings.
Danny Shortall, head of the Queen Anne's Farm Bureau, said many residents believe the governor's main interest in the Shore is Ocean City and getting tourists to "Reach the Beach."
"We have to put up with the traffic," he said. "On [Routes] 301 and 404, to get out there with a truckload of grain, you can hardly get on the highway."
Others said they disliked Mr. Schaefer's spending habits or said there is still some resentment because of the governor's 1988 defense of a new handgun control law.