Brock vs. Sarbanes

September 14, 1994

In Maryland, Republicans don't elect Republicans to statewide office. With their 2 to 1 registration edge, Democrats do. That's why much of Maryland's GOP Establishment put its support behind former Tennessee Sen. Bill Brock in the Republican primary battle to take on formidable Paul S. Sarbanes, the three-term Democrat with one of the most liberal voting records in the U.S. Senate.

Why Mr. Brock over Montgomery County developer Ruthann Aron and Eastern Shore Del. C. Ron Franks? The answer can be found in a roll call of past greats that always begins with Theodore Roosevelt McKeldin and Charles Mathias. The McKeldin-Mathias thesis holds to the concept that "Maryland is Moderate." That the GOP can best win in this state with Eisenhower-style Republicanism.

Well, if this is so, why then William E. Brock III, native of Tennessee, Goldwater enthusiast, product of Southern conservatism, Reagan Cabinet member, former GOP national chairman?

It comes down to alternatives and the passage of time. Mr. Brock's career has been one of evolvement toward Maryland traditions. He has discovered civil rights in trying to deal with the plight of inner-city youngsters. He has become an all-out internationalist and free-trader. While his economic policies are pretty standard GOP fare -- a balanced budget amendment, a line item veto, a holddown on domestic spending -- they are not so rigid as Ms. Aron's. She vowed never to raise taxes under any circumstances and scored Mr. Brock for his past votes on various budget packages.

On gun control, always a hot issue in this state, Mr. Brock (along with Ms. Aron) criticized Dr. Franks for raffling off an assault weapon in a clear attempt to gain support from the NRA. The Franks gambit was not enough to overcome the financial edge of millionaires Brock and Aron.

So despite his short residence in Maryland and his vulnerability to complaints about his private-sector work for foreign governments (never, he says, did he advise any actions contrary to U.S. interests), Mr. Brock has his chance to become the first person directly elected to the Senate from two different states.

Ms. Aron had negligible public service to explain her pretensions for the Senate; her campaign had a negative edge that bordered on the nasty. Dr. Franks never could compete with the funds his millionaire rivals could throw into the GOP primary. But he established himself as a politician with a future in this state.

Marylanders will be well served if the coming Sarbanes-Brock contest delves into the substantive subject matter both men are well-equipped to discuss and debate. This could be an issues rather than a sound-bite and smear campaign if both candidates live up to the best that is within them.

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