GOP developer starts bid for Senate swinging

April 06, 1994|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,Sun Staff Writer

Ruthann Aron, a Montgomery County developer, lawyer and virtual political unknown, roared out of the gate yesterday in announcing her bid to be the GOP's nominee for U.S Senate, lashing out at the Washington establishment and flexing her potential fund-raising muscle.

Ms. Aron, 51, a county planning commissioner from Potomac, took bipartisan swipes at Democratic incumbent Paul S.

Sarbanes and presumed Republican front-runner William E. Brock III, assailing them as "career politicians who have failed us."

In formally announcing her candidacy, she delivered a strongly worded speech that stressed eliminating tax-and-spend policies and the national debt, creating jobs through a pro-business environment in Maryland, getting tough on criminals, and replacing welfare with "workfare."

"We are leaving our children a financially and morally bankrupt country," she said, suggesting that Mr. Sarbanes, a three-term senator, and Mr. Brock, a former U.S. Senator from Tennessee, were part of the problem.

"We are suffering the consequences of a Congress full of career politicians," she said.

"I am a career politician's worst nightmare: a citizen legislator who wants to bring the voice of the people to Congress, and then I want to go home. I do not believe that we should make elected office, public service, a lifetime career."

Ms. Aron, a millionaire capable of putting considerable personal money into the race, made her announcement in Baltimore at the headquarters of Crown Central Petroleum Corp., whose chairman, Henry A. Rosenberg Jr., heartily endorsed her.

"I'm a Democrat and I'm involved with the right person," said Mr. Rosenberg, who also sits on Ms. Aron's campaign finance committee.

Asked about his support for a Republican candidate over a Democrat, Mr. Rosenberg said: "Mr. Sarbanes knows I'm not happy with him. I told him, 'I don't like your voting record, Paul. It stinks.' "

The support of Mr. Rosenberg, a long-time friend and supporter of Gov. William Donald Schaefer, could mean that other moneyed Baltimore-area businessmen would follow suit by supporting Ms. Aron.

And with that kind of support in the Baltimore area, she could give Mr. Brock -- an eight-year resident of Annapolis -- a tough race in the GOP primary.

Ms. Aron's home base in Montgomery County, where 20 percent the registered voters are Republican, will account for about a quarter of the statewide GOP vote in the September primary and she could fare well there -- if she becomes better known.

A March 24 straw poll of nearly 500 Republican party activists in Montgomery County, however, showed Mr. Brock capturing 73.5 percent of the vote, Ms. Aron getting 18.6 percent, and C. Ronald Franks, an Eastern Shore delegate to the Maryland General Assembly, trailing with 7.9 percent.

Nevertheless, Ms. Aron is being viewed by many in the GOP around the state as a credible contender.

"I think she's very bright, very tough and competitive, and I think if she can get enough people to check her out, she can go like a house afire," said Del. Robert L. Flanagan, a Howard County Republican.

Mr. Brock stayed above the fray yesterday with a simple response to Ms. Aron's attacks, which ranged from his vulnerability as a candidate against Mr. Sarbanes in the general election to his representing foreign companies in Washington after being the U.S. trade representative.

"Our campaign is not about criticizing other candidates. It's about change for Maryland and representation for Maryland," said Erin O'Brien, Mr. Brock's press secretary.

Ms. Aron, who also made a point of mentioning that Mr. Brock became a Marylander only in recent years, is a native of New York state who has lived in Montgomery County for the last 20 years.

Other GOP contenders are: William T.S. Bricker, a Towson lawyer and former state motor vehicle administrator; Ross Z. Pierpont, a retired Baltimore surgeon and perennial candidate; and Frank Nethken, a former mayor of Cumberland.

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