Franks joins field opposing Sarbanes

January 25, 1994|By John B. O'Donnell | John B. O'Donnell,Staff Writer

FREDERICK -- Criticizing Democratic Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes for everything from U.S. policy in Somalia to failing to answer constituents' requests for assistance, first-term Eastern Shore Del. C. Ronald Franks yesterday formally joined the crowded field of Republican candidates hoping to unseat the three-term incumbent.

At a press conference here, the 51-year-old GOP conservative, a Grasonville dentist, said he is a "citizen legislator" and contrasted himself with the "inside the Beltway royalty" and "the career politician" whom he seeks to replace. He laid out a conservative agenda that emphasized the economy and crime, but also took a swipe at a federal court decision earlier this month requiring establishment of a minority legislative district on the Eastern Shore.

Mr. Franks, who has been campaigning since spring, made his formal announcement at press conferences here and, later in Annapolis and Salisbury. While such announcements are usually staged to get maximum publicity, he did not hold a press conference in either of the state's voter-rich major media markets, Baltimore or the Washington suburbs. His press conferences here and in Annapolis drew three Breporters and one photographer each -- but no television cameras. A third in Salisbury drew two TV cameras -- one from a network affiliate and the other from a cable station.

He readily admits that he lacks the name recognition important to winning a statewide election. Unable to raise sufficient funds to buy advertising on major television stations in the Baltimore-Washington area, he said last week he plans to rely on direct mailings to targeted voters and advertising on cable television to get his message to GOP voters for next September's primary.

He said he moved his announcement ahead to yesterday to combat rumors that he will pull out of the race. He said he hopes to raise $800,000 for the primary election and another $2.3 million for the general election. Thus far, he said, he has raised $45,000 to $50,000.

Mr. Franks has concentrated on budget and fiscal matters in the General Assembly and has been a sharp critic of Gov. William Donald Schaefer's budgets. Yesterday, he called for conservative approaches to the economy, including a balanced budget and no new taxes, and harsher treatment of convicted criminals.

In a prepared statement, he criticized a federal court decision earlier this month that requires creation of a majority-black legislative district on the lower Eastern Shore, saying, "Much like the results of forced busing, these artificial, so-called 'remedies' often cause more division and resentment and are generally counterproductive to improved race relations."

Mr. Franks lambasted Mr. Sarbanes on Somalia, saying the incumbent should have used his experience as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to help President Clinton avoid the debacle there in the fall.

"He should have been directly advising the president and should have had an early position on that," he said. Mr. Franks claimed that, after a dozen U.S. servicemen were killed and more than 75 injured last October in a battle in Mogadishu, Mr. Sarbanes' office told him that the senator had no position on the situation.

"He has to have a position," Mr. Franks said. "He has to lead."

He also criticized Mr. Sarbanes for a lack of constituent service.

Five other Republicans are in the Senate race. Former Tennessee Sen. William E. Brock and Ruthann Aron, a member of the Maryland National Capital Parks and Planning Commission, have registered with the Federal Elections Commission. Ross Z. Pierpont, a retired Baltimore surgeon; William T. S. Bricker, a Towson lawyer; and Frank Nethken, a former mayor Cumberland, have also said they are running.

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