Long-shot candidates offer quirky passion CAMPAIGN 1994

THE POLITICAL GAME

August 24, 1994|By Frank Langfitt | Frank Langfitt,Sun Staff Writer

Every two years, ordinary Marylanders with little or no political experience defy conventional wisdom and run for Congress. Political Don Quixotes, they come from across the ideological spectrum, tilting at well-financed incumbents and daunting odds.

This year's field of about two dozen long-shots is an eclectic group that includes a retired astrophysicist, the owner of a 7-Eleven in Dundalk and an investment banker from Columbia who wants to impeach President Clinton.

Relying on radio, cable television and newspapers, they are running shoestring campaigns emphasizing real-world experience. Together, they express a passion for key issues and a belief that they can really help this country.

If they are running as a lark, it is a relatively expensive one. The fee to file for the U.S. Senate is $290; the House of Representatives, $100.

"My motivation is purely idealistic," said Howard D. Greyber, a retired astrophysicist running as a Republican for the U.S. Senate. "I think I can make a difference -- if lightning strikes."

History suggests that most, probably all, will lose. In the world of modern campaigning, they will be out-spent, out-advertised and out-faxed. But along the way, they provide a refreshing, occasionally quirky, voice in the sometimes predictable dialogue mainstream politics.

Mr. Greyber, 71, says he is running to reverse corruption in Congress. Getting there will be tough. In the primary, he faces two millionaires -- former Tennessee Sen. Bill Brock and Montgomery County developer Ruthann Aron. Both have already contributed heavily to their own campaigns. Mr. Greyber has raised less than $400.

Despite a likely loss in the Sept. 13 primary, he says he feels a responsibility to run anyway.

"I have three children," he said. "I'm very concerned about the way America is going. Someone has to stick their neck out."

David Yurus, an investment banker from Columbia, is running an uphill race in the Republican primary against Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett in Western Maryland's 6th Congressional District. Political observers generally agree that Mr. Bartlett will coast to the nomination.

Still, Mr. Yurus argues he can beat the incumbent on the issues.

Mr. Yurus thinks permissiveness and liberalism are eroding the nation, and he has staked out what some might consider extreme positions.

"My goal in this campaign is to make Roscoe Bartlett -- who is an obvious conservative -- look like a liberal," he said. So far, Mr. Yurus is doing his darnedest.

He has printed 30,000 bumper stickers that read, "David YurU.S. will make 'em work for their welfare!!!" The candidate recommends caning for car theft and shoplifting.

In foreign affairs, Mr. Yurus believes the United States should have attacked North Korea to halt nuclear proliferation and thinks President Clinton should be impeached for failing to do so. Describing himself as old-fashioned, Mr. Yurus, 29, says he is running for Congress because "I really think America's gone off its rocker."

In a curious move, he has distributed a campaign photo that strongly resembles a police mug shot. Mr. Yurus acknowledges that the picture is unusual, and says he hopes people will remember it.

While most can't afford paid campaign staffs, candidates like Hunter Epperson are turning to their families to get out the vote. Mr. Epperson, who owns a 7-Eleven in Dundalk, is running as a Democrat for the 2nd District congressional seat with the help of his 10 brothers-in-law and 14 siblings.

"If my relations work for me down here, I'll win," he predicted.

Mr. Epperson faces better-known opponents in the primary, including state Dels. Gerry L. Brewster and Connie Galiazzo DeJuliis. But Mr. Epperson, a 63-year-old former union official, says he's campaigning to turn the United States around.

"I'm fed up with the way the country is being run," he said. "You don't need to be a millionaire to win an election in this country. They are going to find that out."

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