Zarwell Draws On His Pr Skills In Seeking Senate Seat

Riva Republican Is One Of 15 Candidates

February 16, 1992|By Arthur Hirsch | Arthur Hirsch,Staff writer

Meet Eugene R. Zarwell, veteran pitchman.

He pitched the Army to the nation after the Vietnam War soured many Americans on the military, he pitched the earthly benefits of the Apollo and Skylab programs to a public skeptical about shooting billions of dollars into space, and he's been selling capitalist tools to recovering Bolsheviks.

Lately, he's been pitching the Zarwell campaign for U.S. Senate. The former advertising executive, public relations and marketing consultant from Riva is one of 15 candidates seeking the Republican nomination for the seat now held by Democrat Barbara A. Mikulski. With just over two weeks until the March 3 primary, Zarwell has been stalkingthe state, selling himself and his plan for U.S. economic recovery.

This economy is the question of the day, said Zarwell, who quotes Calvin Coolidge: "The business of America is business."

He called a news conference last week to discuss his proposal to lift the nation out of recession. The plan would cut capital gains taxes, cut taxesand fees on export trade, reduce federal government employment by giving more power to states and temporarily lower mortgage rates.

But the greatest hope for this country's economic recovery, said Zarwell, lies in developing new overseas markets, particularly in the former Soviet Union.

"The Russians could be our greatest economic partners in the future," he said. Since October 1990, when he traveled to Russia to represent a U.S. computer firm at an international trade show, Zarwell said he's visited Russia three times as a consultant to new businesses.

He says he is acting as consultant to a group of investors establishing a new commercial airline in the Commonwealth of Independent States and as liaison between Russian and U.S. firms. He said the companies asked him not to name them.

In answering questions about public issues, Zarwell, a Wisconsin native, leans on his experience in marketing, public relations and advertising, where he hasspent his 28-year career.

Ask him about criminal justice, and he mentions the research he did on the connection between crime and illiteracy while under contract to the state of Wisconsin in the 1960s. Ask him how U.S. companies can switch from building missiles to consumer products, and he talks about his public relations efforts on behalf of the space program, in which he helped to show the link between government space research and the development of consumer goods. Ask him about environmental protection, and he cites the role he's played as liaison between U.S. and Russian companies that are hoping to produce equipment used to improve the environment in the commonwealth.

A lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve, Zarwell, 50, has worked many years as a consultant to the Army. After the Vietnam War, he helped to establish a nationwide recruiting program designed to restore the Army's tattered public image.

He follows a conservative philosophy on government -- the less the better -- and believes the country has become too dependent on government employment. He extends that philosophy to the question of abortion rights, saying the government should have no say in the matter.

"It's not a government issue," he said. "It's between a woman's conscience and her beliefs. . . . I don't want the government telling me what I can do in my home."

By thesame token, he does not want the government to get into the health insurance business. He advocates lowering the cost of health care by capping malpractice insurance awards and curbing abuse of the existinginsurance system.

Asked to describe the chief weakness of Sen. Barbara Mikulski, Zarwell said, "I don't think she's ever had any experience in problem-solving. Her solution is to bring money in and create federal jobs."

Zarwell, on the other hand, has never held publicoffice. In his first election campaign in 1988, he finished fourth in a nine-candidate field in the Republican U.S. Senate primary and had to sell his home in Severna Park to help pay his campaign debt. He says he's spent about $20,000 of his own money on the 1992 campaign and has received about $40,000 in in-kind contributions.

He said helost money on fund-raisers last April and December. A mid-week coffee hour last week drew fewer than a dozen people to the Gambrills homeof Barbara Callahan, who said she met Zarwell through a mutual friend last spring.

"The more I talked with him, the more sense he made," said Callahan, who is active in the American Association of University Women.

Laura Green-Treffer, who chairs the county's Republican Central Committee, is not so sure about that. After hearing Zarwelland four other U.S. Senate candidates speak at a forum last week, she said: "I don't know where he is on the issues. I asked him why he was the most qualified and what issues he considers most important, and he couldn't answer."

Zarwell says he wasn't given enough time atthe forum to discuss his positions in detail. It's clear, he said, that the most important question facing the country now is how to makethe transition to a post-Cold War economy.

"The issue is getting people back to work," said Zarwell.

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