Lobbyist and Democratic fund-raiser Bruce C. Bereano crossed political lines yesterday to head a group of fellow party members who support Republican Robert R. Neall's county executive campaign.
With Bereano at his side, the GOP nominee opened the Democrats for Neall headquarters in the Democratic stronghold of Glen Burnie, where opponent Theodore J. Sophocleus has a campaign office on the same block.
Armed with an opinion poll he commissioned, Neall said he has support countywide and among voters of all political persuasions. The number of voters Neall attracts outside the GOP could determine whether he can beat Sophocleus in a county where Democrats outnumber Republicans 3-to-2.
In a poll of 432 registered voters conducted last week by PEG Research of Annapolis, Neall came out ahead of Sophocleus, 47 percent to 38 percent, with a crossover of 33 percent of Democrats. Sophocleus attracted support from only 18 percent of Republicans.
"If Neall gets one out of three Democrats, I don't see how he can lose," said PEG Research President Patrick E. Gonzales, who managed outgoing County Councilman Michael F. Gilligan's losing race against Sophocleus.
Sophocleus, a two-term councilman from Linthicum, dismissed Neall's poll, noting that a survey commissioned earlier this month by The Sun showed the Democrat ahead by 45 percent to 41 percent. With a 4 percent margin of error, the Sun Poll described a dead-even race.
Sophocleus said he plans to release his own poll, conducted by Mason-Dixon Opinion Research, which confirms the Sun results.
He said his strength in the primary -- when he beat the closest of three rivals by better than 2-to-1 -- demonstrated his countywide strength.
But Neall proved his own popularity from North to South in the 1986 4th District congressional race, when he won the county by a 10,000-vote margin over Tom McMillen, only to lose by 428 votes due to weakness in Howard and Prince George's counties.
The only council district McMillen carried in 1986 was Sophocleus'.
After a news conference inaugurating the Glen Burnie office, Neall dispatched dozens of campaign workers to distribute literature in Pasadena.
"Every percentage point that comes (from Democrats) between now and Nov.
6, that's a twofer, because every vote that I pick up is a vote that Ted loses," Neall said. "We're going to put the heat on up here. We're going to show we have enthusiastic support in North County."
Bereano, a lifelong Democrat, confidante of Gov. William Donald Schaefer and one-time aide to former state Senate Majority Leader William James, said his friendship with Neall dates back to 1973, when the Republican served as legislative assistant to former Senate Minority Leader Edward Hall.
"What Bob offers is non-partisan," said Bereano, a lawyer. "He knows how to cut out fat. He knows how to run government effectively and efficiently."
Neall, who resigned as state drug policy coordinator to run for executive, is a former House minority leader who served his three terms on the Appropriations Committee.
Neall had other Democratic activists on hand to show their support, including Carroll H. Hynson Jr., a deputy director of the Lottery Agency.
But Sophocleus questioned whether Bereano's reputation as one of Annapolis' most prominent lobbyists would play well with rank-and-file Democratic voters.
"I guess some people like lobbyists and some people don't," said the Democrat, who has his own Republicans for Sophocleus committee.