Governor Bill Brock?

February 01, 1993

The news that Bill Brock is thinking of running for governor next year is both intriguing and disquieting. It is intriguing that a highly respected national Republican -- former U.S. senator, party national chairman, Reagan administration labor secretary and trade negotiator -- would be interested in the race. It is disquieting because, once again, it points to the shortage of qualified, home-grown Republican candidates for state office.

Although he has lived in Annapolis for seven years, and in Montgomery County for some time before that, Mr. Brock's political career was born and nurtured in Tennessee, the state he represented in both halls of Congress for 14 years. He had a distinguished record there, one of the band of moderate Republicans who upheld the traditions of the eastern wing of the national party. After serving as GOP national chairman and taking on Reagan administration Cabinet-level assignments, he became a business consultant in Washington and, more to the point, a settled resident of Maryland. Lately, he has become active in state Republican affairs, hosting rallies and fund-raisers, familiarizing himself with state GOP politicos.

Quite a resume for a potential governor. But its strengths are also its weaknesses. It shows little grounding in Maryland affairs. In a state with an overwhelmingly Democratic registration lead, knowledge of Maryland politics involves knowledge of the dominant party and its principal players, even for a Republican. The successful statewide Republican candidates of the past -- the McKeldins, the Mathiases, the Bealls -- knew the Democratic Party as well as their own.

While Mr. Brock would bring to a Maryland candidacy far more impressive political and governmental credentials than some who have carried the Republican banner here in the recent past, he still exposes the party's dire need for home-grown leadership with statewide appeal. Perhaps he could win. Perhaps his organizing talents could energize the Maryland GOP to field strong candidates with deep roots here so Republicans will become the continuing threat to Democratic dominance that the two-party system demands. One thing's for sure: GOP right-wingers would be rebuffed.

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