GOP: Grand Old Pot-shotters

September 02, 1994

Dr. Ross Z. Pierpont, the hardy perennial of Maryland Republicanism, had a splendid time the other night as he jousted for the honor of trying to oust Democrat Paul S. Sarbanes from his well-worn seat in the U.S. Senate.

A fellow who has known defeat many times, Dr. Pierpont's ambitions are tempered with irony, humor and curmudgeonry.

Given a spot in the Republican Party's one and only official debate of the primary season, he took on his three ahead-in-the-polls rivals with a gusto they reserved for pot-shotting one another.

As for Ruthann Aron, Dr. Pierpont said he had not been found guilty of fraud -- a reference to two civil cases between the Montgomery County developer and some long-gone business partners.

In a dig at former Tennessee Sen. Bill Brock, he noted the "carpetbagger" and "foreign agent" charges that have been flung in his direction.

Scoring Dr. C. Ronald Franks' controversial raffling off of a Colt AR-15 assault weapon, Dr. Pierpont said he had nothing against guns but he thought that the Franks idea was a bad one.

"You can't get elected with that kind of baggage," he said, thus unveiling a GOP nightmare. But his foes preferred not to notice, figuring he isn't a real contender anyway. Instead, they concentrated on one another.

Ms. Aron, unrelenting in her assaults on Mr. Brock, finally drew boos at the Bethesda debate when she flat-out said: "I want to tell you I worry about sending Bill Brock back to the Senate."

Mr. Brock, in turn, accused his tormentor of "playing fast and loose with the facts." Both he and Ms. Aron deplored Dr. Franks' assault-gun fund-raising caper.

All of this must have pleased any Sarbanes agents watching the proceedings. The three-term incumbent senator has seen his lead over any of these potential opponents stretch to a formidable 24 percent in the run-up to the Sept. 13 primary. Clearly, if Dr. Pierpont's beloved GOP is to make a comeback it will have to unfold after intra-party warfare ceases on that date.

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