Marylanders test 'anti' vote today at polls Top state officials, 5 county leaders, tax caps on ballot

November 06, 1990|By C. Fraser Smith

The true test of a growing popular sentiment against political incumbents, taxes and government in general occurs today as Maryland's voters go to the polls from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The voters -- some of them driving around with signs on their cars saying "Re-elect No One" -- will choose Maryland's next governor, attorney general and comptroller, eight members of Congress, five county executives and myriad other officeholders and answer questions about how much money they want to spend and how they want government run.

In three counties, they will decide how much revenue those who are elected can raise with the property tax. They will be weighing unhappiness over taxes against their desire for public services that tax-cap opponents warn are threatened by the limits.

In four counties, voters will decide some of the most competitive races for county executive in recent years.

Despite the anti-incumbency mood, however, only one Maryland congressman -- Representative Roy P. Dyson, D-Md.-1st -- seems in any danger of losing.

Despite it all, however, the guru of voter turnout in Maryland calculated yesterday that voters are not mad enough to go to the polls in great numbers. Gene Raynor, administrator of the State Board of Election Laws, said predicted rain would depress the figure another 2 percentage points. The National Weather Service now is calling for a sunny day with highs in the 60s.

His turnout estimate: an unusually low 47 percent.

Mr. Raynor said he based his prediction on interest in the statewide races, the pace of voter registration and requests for absentee ballots. Neither of the last two has been brisk.

Mr. Raynor said the 2.06 million Marylanders who are registered represent 62 percent of those who are old enough to be registered. So, less than a third of the more than three million Marylanders who could vote are expected to vote today.

High turnout or low, Election Day 1990 dawns with far more drama than might have been anticipated when the campaign season began. Grouped by some analysts under the heading of "anti-incumbent fever," the voters' feelings took them beyond the "anti" stage to anger, disgust and rebellion.

Almost every race seemed susceptible to these volatile feelings. And as the final hours approached, contenders with resources -- incumbents mostly -- crowded onto Maryland radio and television with an array of pleas for votes.

The race between Gov. William Donald Schaefer, the 69-year-old Democrat, and William S. Shepard, a 55-year-old retired foreign service officer, had seemed all but decided for Mr. Schaefer until recent days when Mr. Shepard moved up and Mr. Schaefer uncharacteristicly dipped in the polls.

Voters will also choose an attorney general today, picking either the incumbent Democrat, J. Joseph Curran Jr., or the Republican, Edward L. Blanton, a Towson lawyer. Mr. Blanton has run what his campaign managers call a "guerrilla" campaign, attacking Mr. Curran for suggesting that a discussion of decriminalizing minor drug offenses is appropriate. Mr. Curran has attempted to deflect the criticism by saying he and Mr. Blanton agree that drug abuse should be opposed.

Also, eight-term Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein will try to make it nine election victories in a row for that office as he faces off against Republican newcomer Larry M. Epstein, an accountant from Glyndon.

The most closely watched race of the year may be in the 1st Congressional District -- Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore -- where the polls indicated Wayne T. Gilchrest, the Republican challenger, was running ahead of Mr. Dyson, the four-term incumbent Democrat.

Mr. Dyson's grasp on his office has been shaken by charges of chummy relationships with defense contractors and by the disclosure that he was a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War -- a history which seemed at odds with his later congressional support for the military.

Mr. Gilchrest got a boost yesterday from a high-ranking member of his party, Vice President Quayle, who said he was in Maryland to "raise the profile" of the Gilchrest campaign.

"Wayne Gilchrest is one of our top priorities," the vice president said during a stop in Salisbury. "This is a congressional district that should be Republican," he said.

Mr. Dyson was up early, meeting at 5:30 a.m. with oyster tongers in Cambridge. He moved on to breakfast with a contingent of supporters in Salisbury at the Little Acorn Restaurant. From there he went to senior centers in Salisbury and Snow Hill, and then he toured McCready Hospital in Crisfield.

Mr. Raynor, the state election supervisor, said he expects a good turnout in the 1st District and in areas where anti-tax feelings are running high.

Though the tax initiatives seemed to have considerable momentum several weeks ago, a recent poll taken for The Sun showed the movements losing steam in both Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties.

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