Abortion issue cloudy in Senate GENERAL ASSEMBLY

November 07, 1990|By Michael A. Fletcher and Patrick Gilbert | Michael A. Fletcher and Patrick Gilbert,Evening Sun Staff

The earlier editions of yesterday's Evening Sun incorrectly identified a photo as that of 5th District state Senate winner Larry Haines.

The Evening Sun regrets the error.

The abortion picture in Maryland is cloudy again and the chances of wholesale tax reform seem dimmer in the aftermath of legislative elections rocked by anti-incumbent tremors and a GOP surge.

After the defeat of four anti-abortion senators in the September primary, Maryland's pro-choice forces were optimistic that yesterday's vote would secure a Senate that is filibuster-proof when the issue is abortion rights. But those hopes were --ed yesterday.


Anti-abortion Republican Christopher J. McCabe apparently has beaten incumbent Democratic Sen. Edward J. Kasemeyer, although the final result in that district, which extends from Howard into Montgomery County, will be determined by absentee ballots. And in Carroll and northwestern Baltimore County, Larry E. Haines, a pro-life Republican, defeated J. Jeffrey Griffith, a Democrat who favors abortion rights.

The result is a Maryland Senate that has a clear pro-choice majority, but not the 32 votes needed to end an anti-abortion filibuster. And during the past legislative session, anti-abortion senators mounted an eight-day filibuster that derailed a bill ensuring abortion rights in Maryland.

"Obviously, we'll have to put our collective heads together with Senate leadership and make certain that we begin with the idea that there's not going to be a filibuster on this issue," said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's.

Steven Rivelis, chairman of Choice PAC, a fund-raising group that backs abortion rights candidates, said the defeats reflected an anti-incumbent mood and economic anxiety among voters more than it did their views on abortion.

"I think people did their abortion homework during the primary and got an 'A'," he said. "I don't think what you saw today was an election result. What we saw today was an election revolt."

Joy S. Ebauer, president of Maryland Right to Life, an anti-abortion group, also said that abortion was not the only issue in the two races.

"I just feel like the abortion issue peaked with the primary and, after that, people started thinking about other things," she said. "I don't think we'll see a filibuster again."

The current law on the books in Maryland allows abortions only in hospitals and if the pregnancy resulted from a rape or would produce a badly deformed child or threatened the life of the mother. But that law has been unenforced since the 1973 Supreme Court decision that lifted most abortion restrictions.

The elections of McCabe and Griffiths were just part of an impressive showing by Republicans in many parts of Maryland.

No Republican incumbent lost last night. In addition, the party picked up as many as 11 seats in the Maryland legislature -- nine in the House of Delegates and two in the Senate. But Democrats still dominate: they won or were leading in races for 116 of the 141 House seats and 38 of the 47 Senate seats.

The voters' conservative mood, coupled with the election of an unusual number of Republicans to the legislature and the apparent victories by Republican county executives in Howard, Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties, may doom any effort to overhaul Maryland's tax structure. And such an effort is likely to be pushed by Gov. William Donald Schaefer during the upcoming legislative session.

"I think it would be difficult for the governor to get something through," speculated McCabe, who benefited from a strong showing by a wide range of Howard County Republicans to apparently knock off Kasemeyer. "I don't think the legislature would be willing to do that when there is such apparent weakness in the Maryland economy."

In all, 10 incumbent legislators were defeated yesterday.

In the House, the losers were Dels. William J. Burgess, Donna M. Felling, Michael Gisriel, all D-Balto. Co., and Dels. Robert J. DiPietro and William C. Bevan, both D-Howard-Prince George's. Other losers were five-term Del. William H. Cox Jr. and Joseph V. Lutz, both D-Harford, and Royd Smith, D-Western Md.

In the Senate, incumbents Kasemeyer and Patricia Cushwa, D-Western Md., who was appointed to her husband's seat following the 1990 legislative session, were losers.

"It's hard to understand," an incredulous Kasemeyer said today. "Howard County is a very desirable place to be . . . it's hard to figure."

The Senate campaign in the 5th District, which includes parts of Carroll and Baltimore counties, centered on abortion although the combatants linked the outcome to several factors.

In the race, Haines, a real estate man running his first race for public office, beat Griffith, a two-term Carroll County commissioner who favors abortion rights and received substantial backing from pro-choice groups, by a margin of 15,944 to 13,987, or 53 percent to 47 percent.

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