Republicans celebrate with grand old party

December 02, 1990|By C. Fraser Smith | C. Fraser Smith,Sun Staff Correspondent

ANNAPOLIS -- An exuberant Maryland Republican Party turned its annual fall convention into a victory celebration yesterday, hailing itself for gains made in the Nov. 6 election and promising to turn up the pressure on the Democrats for the 1992 election and beyond.

Party Chairman Joyce Lyons Terhes and others repeatedly introduced the party's overnight successes, as if to prove once again that Nov. 6 actually happened, and there were confident predictions of more victories to come -- and sober warnings as well.

"Now is not the time to rest on our laurels," said Representative Helen Delich Bentley, R-2nd, the Maryland party's Republican national committeewoman and its most visible leader.

"Our new elected officials need to hit the ground running," she said. The public identity of a legislator can be made for all time in the early months of his or her career, she said.

Speaking at an overflow luncheon in the Annapolis Ramada Inn, Mrs. Bentley said Republicans won because voters were unhappy with what she called "the arrogance of power in a one-party state." Democrats in Baltimore County, she observed, had gone to court to stop a citizens' petition drive to cap property-tax increases.

With that, she said, the voters said, "Enough" -- and cleaned house, sweeping County Executive Dennis F. Rasmussen out of office in a near-landslide and electing many other Republicans, at least two in an area never before represented by Republicans.

Similar victories were won in many parts of the state.

The trend, predicted Alan L. Keyes, a former diplomat and 1988 candidate for the U.S. Senate in Maryland, will continue.

"What we saw this year was a continuation of a trend that has been apparent here for several years. All over the country, and particularly in Maryland, given the historic domination of the Democrats, people are turning against the Establishment. In Maryland, Republicans are the anti-Establishment party."

Mr. Keyes said the other unmistakable theme of the new voter activism was a revulsion for taxes.

"That feeling will keep the momentum going. And if Gov. [William Donald] Schaefer tries to push tax increases, we'll have a fine time in the future," he said. "I think Schaefer should read the handwriting on the wall. It's not going to fly."

As they congratulated themselves, some party members took shots at Mr. Schaefer.

A hot souvenir of the convention and recent election was a T-shirt being sold by the Queen Anne's County Republican Central Committee. The shirt featured a sketch of Mr. Schaefer wearing a king's crown inscribed with the number "59.6 percent" -- the portion of the vote Mr. Schaefer received on Nov. 6 -- followed by ". . . as for the rest of you, I know where you live."

Mr. Schaefer recently has been somewhat critical of Eastern Shore residents for failing to recognize the many public works he says he has steered in their direction.

But Barbara A. Foor, a member of the Queen Anne's County Central Committee, said the people feel as if Mr. Schaefer has done a lot to them, not for them.

Principally, she said, the governor's "Reach The Beach" plans have altered traffic patterns to help beach-goers but have stymied local residents and merchants.

During lunch, the party's new public officials were introduced yet again to its new local government stars, including three new county executives: Roger Hayden in Baltimore County, Robert R. Neall in Anne Arundel County and Charles I. Ecker in Howard County.

The body also greeted Wayne T. Gilchrest, who won Maryland's 1st District seat in the U.S. Congress. Mr. Gilchrest, a house painter and teacher until his recent victory over Roy P. Dyson, was introduced by Mrs. Bentley as "our 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.' "

In a long, is-this-really-happening-to-me? speech, Mr. Gilchrest described his experiences at new congressman-orientation meetings in Washington. He brought with him a U.S. flag flown over the Capitol on Nov. 6.

The Vietnam veteran promised to work for peace in Washington. "I will work to make sure each of the young men and women [in Saudi Arabia] comes back safely."

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