Federal drug czar William J. Bennett, who praised Gov. William Donald Schaefer's anti-drug efforts as a model for the nation 11 months ago, endorsed Mr. Schaefer's Republican opponent, William S. Shepard, yesterday.
Appearing at a $125-a-person fund-raising breakfast at the posh Center Club atop the USF&G Building at the Inner Harbor, Mr. Bennett criticized the governor for "stiffing" Mr. Shepard by failing to debate him. He said Marylanders deserved a competitive two-party system, but otherwise only made a passing reference to the central Republican charge that Mr. Schaefer is an uncontrollable big spender.
Paul E. Schurick, Governor Schaefer's press secretary, called the endorsement just five days before the election "confusing," noting that "Mr. Bennett has on many occasions praised Governor Schaefer and praised the governor's policies and programs."
The endorsement by Mr. Bennett, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy and a resident of Chevy Chase, was delivered to a friendly Republican audience of 60 to 70 people, many of whom were already buoyed by a recent poll indicating that Mr. Shepard and his running mate and wife, Lois, are beginning to erode Mr. Schaefer's commanding lead. The election is Tuesday.
State GOP Chairwoman Joyce L. Tehres said the mood of the whole country is shifting against incumbents and called the Shepard's uphill race "do-able."
Mr. Shepard, gusting with bravado after being introduced by USF&G Chairman Jack Moseley as Maryland's "next governor," hammered on Mr. Schaefer for inheriting a budget with a surplus exceeding $400 million four years ago that has become a deficit estimated by legislative analysts at $322 million.
"And all he can do is come up with more tax-and-spend plans," Mr. Shepard charged. Mr. Schaefer's political ads, which enumerate the projects and programs he has successfully pushed through, are actually working in Mr. Shepard's favor, the Republican said.
Mr. Schurick dismissed those remarks as "the same tired rhetoric that demonstrates Mr. and Mrs. Shepard's unfortunate lack of understanding of state government, and particularly the state budget."
The Republican candidate, a former U.S. foreign service officer from Potomac with no experience in elective office, was not the only one taking shots at the governor yesterday.
House Minority Leader Ellen R. Sauerbrey, R-Baltimore County, referred to Mr. Schaefer as "a dictator" who spends more money and effort on golf courses and sports stadiums than he does on schools, roads or prisons. A contractor at the event, afraid to give his name for fear it might hurt his chances of obtaining future state contracts, called Mr. Schaefer "an egomaniac."
Delegate Martha S. Klima, R-Baltimore County, said the governor's popularity in her northeastern Baltimore County district has taken a nose dive.
"If you think [Democratic County Executive Dennis F.] Rasmussen is unpopular, it goes doublefold for Schaefer," she said.