Search for thoroughbred to make run at Sarbanes has GOP abuzz

THE POLITICAL GAME

November 17, 1993|By Robert Timberg | Robert Timberg,Staff Writer

Rep. Helen Delich Bentley's entry into the Republican gubernatorial race has jump-started the GOP's search for a high-profile candidate to take aim at Paul S. Sarbanes' U.S. Senate seat.

Mrs. Bentley declared for governor on Nov. 10, ending months of immobilizing uncertainty. She joined a field of GOP hopefuls that already included Ellen R. Sauerbrey, the House of Delegates minority leader, and retired foreign service officer William S. Shepard, the 1990 standard-bearer.

Party leaders, seeking a big name to join the gubernatorial candidate at the top of the ticket, are now talking excitedly about three men who seem to fit their specifications -- Bill Brock, J. Glenn Beall Jr. and Bill Bennett. The buzzing could just be wishful thinking. None of the B's could be reached for comment.

Mr. Brock, 62, has a George Bush-like resume. Terms in the House and Senate (from Tennessee), chairman of the Republican National Committee, cabinet posts as U.S. trade representative and labor secretary.

As RNC chief, he is widely credited with resurrecting the party in the aftermath of Watergate. In those years, he worked closely with Maryland party leaders, among them the late Lyn Meyerhoff, a prodigious GOP fund-raiser.

Earlier this year, Mr. Brock was talked of as a possible gubernatorial candidate. He ended the speculation when he joined Delegate Sauerbrey's campaign as co-chairman. If he runs, he will probably be called a carpetbagger, but he has put down Maryland roots, having moved to Annapolis several years ago after living in Montgomery County during his Washington heyday.

The genial Mr. Beall, 66, is a familiar face. He and his father represented Maryland in the U.S. Senate and he was the Republican gubernatorial candidate in 1978.

A stumbling block is his electoral record. He was ousted from the Senate by Mr. Sarbanes in 1976 by an enormous margin and defeated for governor in a historic landslide two years later by Harry Hughes.

A closer look at those races suggests that timing was very much against him. Mr. Beall ran against Mr. Sarbanes in the shadow of Watergate. Moreover, Mr. Beall had a tangential involvement in the scandal, which Mr. Sarbanes skillfully exploited.

Mr. Beall never had a chance against Mr. Hughes, a long shot nominee proclaimed by himself and others, including The Sun, as the candidate to clean the Augean Stables in the days when the state was ensnarled in seemingly endless corruption scandals.

Mr. Brock and Mr. Beall are old political warhorses. Mr. Bennett, 50, education secretary under Ronald Reagan and drug czar in the Bush administration, is a young, lean and hungry one. He is said to have 1996 presidential aspirations.

He is smart, tough, thoughtful and witty. His major drawback is that he falls into the category of Montgomery County twinkie. Every so often -- about once every two years, as it happens -- Maryland Republicans notice that some Washington media star like Mr. Bennett happens to live in the county. They try to recruit him or her for a statewide race. Sometimes they succeed. None has ever won.

Three lesser-known Republicans have declared their candidacies: One-term Eastern Shore Del. C. Ronald Franks, ex-Cumberland Mayor Frank Nethken, and William T. S. Bricker, former state Motor Vehicle Administrator, assistant attorney general, and assistant Baltimore state's attorney. A prospect with major potential, state Sen. John A. Cade from Anne Arundel, is weighing a run for comptroller as well as senator.

Yeltsin aides make Maryland pilgrimage

Three of Russian President Boris Yeltsin's political handlers will be huddling Saturday with Lt. Gov. Melvin A. "Mickey" Steinberg to discuss, according to a Steinberg for Governor news release, "the nuts and bolts of putting together a campaign apparatus."

Campaign spokeswoman Diane Reis says the Yeltsin aides chose the lieutenant governor's political operation, among others, "because they want our advice."

After nearly three decades in politics, Mr. Steinberg has a fully fleshed out persona. He can be substantive. He can wheel and deal. He can make you laugh. At times, on the stump, he indulges in long, rambling discourses, like a vaudeville comic who tells a great shaggy dog story but occasionally forgets the punch line.

The Russians are in for a treat. But how well does Mickey Shtick travel?

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