GOP Senate Contenders

August 25, 1994

On the page opposite, the three leading contenders for the Republican nomination to the U.S. Senate in the Sept. 13 primary give Marylanders a glimpse of the forthcoming GOP campaign to unseat the incumbent three-term Democrat, Paul S. Sarbanes, in the November general election. They attack the Baltimore senator's liberal voting record, his long stay on Capitol Hill and his low profile over the years.

All of this is wholly predictable. Senator Sarbanes has heard these complaints before from a host of political opponents, and yet his hold on the Maryland electorate has been such that he has coasted to easy victory in campaign after campaign.

Will this year be different?

Del. Ron Franks, of the Eastern Shore, states bluntly that "no amount of money spent on telling Marylanders about Paul's liberal voting record will result in his defeat; it never has." He contends that Mr. Sarbanes' vulnerability is to be found in "a widely held feeling that he has been in Congress too long, that he is a poster boy for term limits."

Ruthann Aron, of Montgomery County, zeros in on Mr. Sarbanes's past votes for higher taxes. A business woman, developer and self-styled fiscal conservative who has taken the "pledge" never to vote for higher taxes, she describes the senator as "a career politician who hasn't drawn a private sector paycheck in 25 years."

Bill Brock, a former U.S. senator from Tennessee who now calls himself a "Marylander by choice," makes a sweeping assault on the Sarbanes record. He contends the senator has not sponsored a successful job-creating bill in 12 years, has voted for taxes and against spending cuts, has supported "intrusive federal regulation into our lives" and has opposed trade agreements that open foreign markets to American goods.

Savvy voters will recognize that the demands of a general election will require far more specific criticism if Mr. Sarbanes is to be challenged effectively. But for the moment, Mr. Brock, Ms. Aron and Dr. Franks are in a contest to get the chance to present that challenge. To date, their campaigns have been low-impact, arms-length affairs. But next week the three candidates will be holding what may be their only two full-fledged debates of the primary season. Republican voters should carefully evaluate what they say and who they are.

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