Senator Boergers runs as 'outsider' CAMPAIGN 1994 -- THE RACE FOR GOVERNOR

September 03, 1994|By Sandy Banisky | Sandy Banisky,Sun Staff Writer

This weekend, the television advertisements begin, the ads that Mary Boergers hopes will distinguish her from the rest of the Democratic field and push her out in front as she runs her long-shot campaign for the Maryland governor's office.

"Mary Boergers stands apart . . .," the 30-second ad declares.

"Democrat Mary Boergers. One of a kind."

That she is. The Montgomery County senator, running fourth in the polls, is the only woman in the race for the Democratic nomination.

Political strategists say that was among the best reasons for Ms. Boergers to get into the race last year. In a crowded field, a female candidate sometimes can capitalize on her gender, draw the women's vote and vault to victory.

But Ms. Boergers says she is not running because she's a woman -- though she notes in her speeches she is "a wife, a mother." She's running, she says, because "men as well as women are tired of career politicians. I am a different kind of candidate."

Unlike candidates who center their campaigns on issues, Ms.Boergers focuses on the "different approach" she would bring to the job, a new look from a 13-year legislative veteran who nonetheless casts herself as "an outsider."

In her nine years as a delegate and four as a senator, she says, she too often saw "deal-making instead of discussion and new ideas."

"I'm someone who can step back, look at the issues and ask what we should be doing," she says.

Among her ideas for the Boergers administration: daytime curfews to keep children in school; an expansion of the Port of Baltimore and Baltimore-Washington Inter- national Airport; mandatory life sentences for a third felony conviction; community college programs for skilled workers; a tuition savings plan for parents.

And though Baltimore's delegation says she is mean-spirited about the city's needs, voting consistently against Baltimore projects, Ms. Boergers says her administration would heal divisions between the Washington suburbs and Baltimore.

'Destroying state'

Parochialism "is what's destroying the state," she says.

Ms. Boergers, 48, describes herself as not part of the Annapolis establishment, not a player in back rooms. She says that means she's independent, not co-opted by special interests. Her critics counter that it means she's ineffective, unable to build the coalitions crucial to legislative victories.

In the legislature, Ms. Boergers is known for her strong positions on issues such as abortion rights and domestic violence. She is credited with being smart, articulate and energetic. She is highly praised by women's groups for her hard work. And she is ever cheery.

But her aggressive style also rankles her colleagues, who complain she is a loner, a grandstander who stirs up confrontations when she should be extending olive branches.

Ms. Boergers has heard those descriptions and shrugs them off, attributing them to sexism and jealousy.

"People's idea about teamwork is you sit there with your mouth shut and never come to an independent idea," she says. "Because I'm female and I've challenged the system, I make people uncomfortable."

Blair Lee IV, a columnist for the Montgomery Journal and no Boergers fan, believes her campaign has faltered in part because it's filled with contradictions -- the feminist who says she's not running on a feminist agenda, the outsider with 13 years in office, the long-time Baltimore critic who promises to heal regional rivalries.

'No consistent theme'

"You have to have some consistent theme," Mr. Lee says. "Mary has no consistent theme other than 'I want to be governor.' And that's not enough to create a campaign.

"It's ambitious bordering on arrogant to think you can knock off a state in one summer."

But Ms. Boergers notes that in a crowded race, you don't need 51 percent of the vote to win. She has campaigned hard with her ticket mate, former Harford County delegate Barbara O. Kreamer -- the state's first two-woman slate.

Despite her efforts, pollsters say the campaign's prognosis is poor as the Sept. 13 primary nears.

A Mason-Dixon survey released this week showed her with just 8 percent of the Democratic vote -- down four points from her showing in July. She's running behind Prince George's County Executive Parris N. Glendening, Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg and state Sen. American Joe Miedusiewski.

'I knew the odds'

She says she's still positioned well to gain ground in the last week, now that she's able to afford television time. She had hoped to amass a campaign treasury of $2 million. Instead, Ms. Boergers raised $600,000 -- 80 percent of it through the hours she is spending each day calling potential contributors.

"I knew the odds," she says of her decision to enter the race. "I've always been the underdog."

A former high school history teacher and state lobbyist for the National Organization for Women, Ms. Boergers in 1981 was appointed to a vacancy in Montgomery County's House delegation.

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