One Republican's unfinished business CAMPAIGN 1994 -- THE RACE FOR GOVERNOR

May 16, 1994|By John W. Frece | John W. Frece,Sun Staff Writer

He was the favorite four years ago of more than 446,000 Marylanders, who thought he would make a better governor than William Donald Schaefer. Now, Republican William S. Shepard says he wants to "finish the job" he began in 1990.

Starting this morning on the courthouse steps in Oakland, in the far reaches of Western Maryland, Mr. Shepard begins the first of 24 appearances in five days -- in Baltimore and in each of the 23 counties -- to kick off a campaign that really began the day after he lost to Mr. Schaefer by 60 percent to 40 percent.

He says he is confident he can again win Maryland's Republican primary, scheduled for Sept. 13, and then return the Maryland State House to the Republicans for the first time since Spiro T. Agnew was governor.

But as the retired diplomat from Montgomery County scours the state for votes this time around, he faces a substantially 'N changed political landscape.

No longer are desperate state Republican officials begging him -- or anyone else with passable credentials -- to get into the race. With Mr. Schaefer barred from seeking a third term, Republicans believe 1994 offers them their best chance in decades to turn Maryland into a competitive, two-party state, and they seem fearful of leaving the task in the hands of a man who has never held elective office.

As his reward for sacrificing himself against a powerful Democratic incumbent four years ago, two better-known Republican officeholders -- Rep. Helen Delich Bentley and Maryland House Minority Leader Ellen R. Sauerbrey, both of Baltimore County -- are trying to wrest away a nomination Mr. Shepard once thought might be his for the asking.

After winning 12 of 23 counties against Mr. Schaefer, the 58-year-old retired Foreign Service officer is still looking for his first big-name endorsement in this election.

Money troubles

Potentially most damaging, he has been able to raise precious little money. This is the first year in which Maryland gubernatorial candidates can have part of their campaigns paid for with money contributed years ago by taxpayers, but Mr. Shepard has raised so little that he may not be able to tap into the financial assistance he so desperately needs.

He acknowledges that he unwittingly raised the bulk of the $88,000 he reported to state election officials last November prior to Sept. 1, 1993. That was the beginning date for candidates to raise money that subsequently could be matched by the state with $1 for every $2 raised.

According to his last report, he raised less than $17,000 in qualifying contributions after Sept. 1, and had only $922 in cash on hand as of Nov. 1. He spent the rest on printing, postage and fund-raising activities.

Mr. Shepard will not say how much he has raised since then, but says he is "meeting expenses," has a pair of fund-raising letters out and plans fund-raising events this summer.

But he concedes that he may not raise the minimum $149,670 in qualifying contributions required by a July 15 deadline to receive matching money for the primary. Ever the optimist, Mr. Shepard says that if he does not qualify for the public funds in the primary, he will try again for the funds in the general election.

In contrast, two of the leading Democratic candidates, Prince George's County Executive Parris N. Glendening and Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg, have each raised more than $1 million and are aiming at a $3 million goal.

Partly as a result of his money problems -- and partly because of the more genteel style that the erudite, multilingual world traveler brings to the race -- the Shepard candidacy has few of the trappings of a traditional statewide campaign.

He has no entourage, no press spokesman, no hangers-on. He drives himself to his own political events, writes his own newsletters and often answers his own phone.

He has hired no professional consultants and no political pollsters. In fact, he has no paid campaign staff. He educates himself on issues by sitting in the audience at hearings just like any other member of the public.

He seems to love campaigning, even as he appears awkward doing it. Tall and a bit stiff, with black hair and bushy eyebrows, he displays a hard plastic placard in his breast pocket that declares his name and candidacy for governor for anyone who may not recognize him.

Mr. Shepard, whose postings have included Saigon, Singapore, Athens, Budapest and Bordeaux, has a reserved, almost formal manner of speaking. But his pale blue eyes sparkle when he talks politics. He clearly enjoys the game. Yet he seems almost confused by the inherent unfairness of politics, that it is somehow unsporting.

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