POTOMAC, MARYLAND. — MARYLAND REPUBLICANS may take some pleasure from the results of last month's elections. But as I said in my keynote address to the Republican State Convention at Towson in June, our goal should not be merely to win individual elections. That simply props up and even legitimizes the existing system. Our goal must be to turn Maryland into a normal American state, with a two-party political system.
Before this year's elections, Maryland stood dead last in the 50 states in the percentage of Republicans in the state legislature. Arrogant legislative practices in Annapolis reflected this reality. My briefings as an invited honorary member of the Republican caucus were helpful for issues orientation. But they also provided, week after week, an education into the arrogance of power in a one-party state.
When the campaign began, I witnessed throughout the state evidences of Governor Schaefer's penchant for political retaliation. People became self-policing in their political behavior, and often were afraid to speak. It reminded us of what we had experienced living in Eastern Europe, although clearly in a modulated form.
Not that Mr. Schaefer's style was limited to his dealings with Republicans -- far from it. And like the progression in a Restoration comedy, Democrats in turn at Annapolis flaunted their authority toward the minority.
We decided to do something about this, and we did. While the economic situation in Maryland has worsened, the political atmosphere has now improved considerably. At Annapolis, four new senators (out of 10) are Republicans, and 12 new delegates (out of 35). Although numbers remain small, the dean of our House delegation has told me that it is the best representation since he has been a delegate.
We have capable new county executives in Chuck Ecker, Roger Hayden and Bobby Neale. We fielded the first complete statewide ticket since 1978, and the Shepard team won 12 counties (very nearly 15), with the highest vote total and best percentage since Spiro T. Agnew won in 1966.
This is what we intend to do now.
We intend to win statewide office, achieve parity in Maryland's representation in the Congress, substantially increase our numbers in Annapolis, and strengthen our numbers on a statewide basis. And we intend to do it in this decade.
This is how we will do it.
First, we will register Republican voters. Our figures show that the statewide registration is now 2.19-1 against us, but 1.82-1 excluding Baltimore. Our goal should be 1.5-1 excluding Baltimore, and soon.
Second, we will network and compare experiences. The swearing-in ceremonies in Towson, Annapolis and Ellicott City were a start. We had not been used to winning. Now we have some measure of success, and will compare notes on governing. We will meet periodically, as we did recently thanks to the gracious hospitality of Alan and Jocelyn Keyes.
Third, our study of issues and our proposed alternatives, both local and statewide, will intensify.
Governor Schaefer's record since the election is a place to begin. His press operation is revealed to be a leviathan, devouring the funds that Maryland does not allocate to the hungry. He has stopped state Medicaid funding for the Kidney Dialysis Program, announced (then retracted) the firing of state employees, a move that reeks of political retaliation, and stopped funding new transportation projects, without any critical look at the existing overpriced ones.
We can do better, and time is with us. There are well known senior Democrats on the scene now ending their political careers, Mr. Schaefer among them. But the new ideas will increasingly come from Republicans, as the familiar faces retire or their incapacity to govern becomes apparent to all.
The game of shared power will end. As Americans and as Marylanders we will work with Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, for the common benefit. But we will not go along to get along, as the older generation of Republicans did.
We will broaden our leadership ranks. It used to be that Republicans yearned for various honorary or commission posts (take a look at ''Republicans for Schaefer''), or fulminated as a permanent minority. They thought heaven was attending a national Republican Convention (where the Maryland delegation was not always housed in the same state as the action -- at Detroit in 1980, it was not even in the same country!). None of this will suffice in the future.
We will welcome fresh ideas and new people, and expect spirited contests in our primaries. We will of course be criticized for becoming more pragmatic and less ideological, but that is where the people and their problems join the governing process.
And we will develop a collective sense of humor.
You will know when we have started to achieve our goals. When establishment columnists stop writing about our conventions in cloying terms, and liberal columnists start arguing with us seriously on policy matters, that will be a start.
And when editors take us seriously enough to issue their injunctions on merit rather than incumbency, we will have come of political age. For at that point, playing up editorially to Democrats for the sake of influencing policy will be understood to be pointless.
Join us along the way. Maryland does not have to be governed by an assortment of Damon Runyon characters. We can make a difference, and we can change things for the better. There will be backward steps, but judge us by our efforts, and always by the alternative. We look forward to the effort ahead.
Mr. Shepard was the Republican candidate for governor.