Brock leads Senate race, polls show CAMPAIGN 1994 -- U.S. SENATE

September 10, 1994|By Frank Langfitt | Frank Langfitt,Sun Staff Writer

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bill Brock appears to have widened his lead over his two closest competitors for the party's nomination in Tuesday's primary, according to an independent poll taken this week.

Mr. Brock, a former U.S. senator from Tennessee, leads the field with 29 percent of the vote in the statewide poll. Montgomery County developer Ruthann Aron has 21 percent, and state Del. C. Ronald Franks has 17 percent. Twenty-five percent of likely GOP primary voters remain undecided.

Two weeks ago, a similar poll found Mr. Brock with 23 percent of the vote to Ms. Aron's 20 percent and Mr. Franks' 14 percent.

Perhaps more important, though, yesterday's poll showed that Ms. Aron's unfavorable rating among voters had risen dramatically since late August, while Mr. Brock's had grown only modestly.

Political analysts said the poll results suggest Ms. Aron's attack campaign against Mr. Brock is backfiring. Using portions of Mr. Brock's considerable public record, Ms. Aron has assailed the moderate conservative as a tax-raising, liberal carpetbagger. But critics of her campaign say the political newcomer has failed to define herself positively to voters.

"What they are getting to know about her is all she does is whine about Bill Brock, and she does not tell us why we should vote for her," said Del Ali, vice-president of Mason-Dixon Political Media Research in Columbia, which conducted the poll on Wednesday and Thursday.

Regarding Mr. Brock's lead, Herbert C. Smith, a political science professor at Western Maryland College, cautioned that voters are volatile and that the race was far from over.

The poll, conducted for The Sun and other news organizations, surveyed 368 likely Republican voters and had a margin of error of plus or minus 5.2 percent. It showed that since the last poll two weeks ago, Ms. Aron's unfavorable rating had risen from 2 percent to 16 percent while Mr. Brock's had only risen from 7 percent to 10 percent.

Craig Esty, Ms. Aron's campaign manager, responded to the surge in her unfavorable rating with a succinct "Holy cow!" He said it was not what the campaign had expected.

"Our internal polling shows we've caught Bill Brock, and we're confident we're going to win on Tuesday," said Mr. Esty.

After months of being battered by Ms. Aron, the Brock camp sounded pleased and relieved at the results yesterday.

"It proves what Bill Brock's been saying all along, that there is no place for negative politics in America . . . ," said M. J. Jameson, a campaign spokeswoman.

Ironically, Mr. Brock went on the air yesterday with ads counterattacking Ms. Aron and focusing on two lawsuits with business partners which she paid more than $300,000 to settle. Ms. Jameson said the ads were an act of self-defense.

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