GOP's Brock, Aron in tight Senate race Sarbanes wins PRIMARY ELECTION RESULTS 1994

September 14, 1994|By Frank Langfitt | Frank Langfitt,Sun Staff Writer Sun staff writers Shirley Leung and Kate Shatzkin contributed to this article.

Former Tennessee Sen. Bill Brock and Montgomery County developer Ruthann Aron were locked in a tight battle last night for the Republican Senate nomination.

With 15 percent of the state's precincts reporting, Mr. Brock led with 34 percent of the vote, while Ms. Aron held 29 percent.

"It's early," said Mr. Brock's campaign spokeswoman, M. J. Jameson, at an Election Night party at the Ramada Inn in Annapolis. "We feel very confident."

Whoever wins the expensive and bruising Senate Republican primary faces an uphill battle against the three-term incumbent, Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes. The veteran of 24 years in Congress won an overwhelming victory over three little-known opponents yesterday.

While Republicans have considered the Baltimore Democrat vulnerable to a strong challenge this year, polls matching him against possible challengers give him a substantial lead, which has widened in recent weeks.

If Mr. Brock, 63, wins the primary, he would have the chance to become the first U.S. senator popularly elected from two states.

If Ms. Aron, 51, wins, it would be a major upset, given her newcomer and underdog status. Unlike Mr. Brock, Ms. Aron would be able to run as an outsider, portraying Mr. Sarbanes as a career politician who should be retired.

A millionaire heir to a Tennessee candy fortune, Mr. Brock, who lives in Annapolis, spent $710,000 of his own money on the campaign -- $220,000 in the past three weeks. All told, his campaign spent at least $1.4 million on the primary -- more than twice Ms. Aron's expenditures, and almost as much as the $1.5 million that Mr. Sarbanes spent six years ago on the primary and general elections.

Ms. Aron, a Potomac resident and millionaire, contributed $258,000 to the race from her own pocket.

As GOP front-runners, Mr. Brock and Ms. Aron provided voters with a clear choice between a beltway insider and a politically inexperienced outsider.

Mr. Brock, who says he only moved to Maryland full time in 1990, has been a national figure in Republican politics. In addition to 14 years in Congress, he served as chairman of the national Republican Party and as a Cabinet member during the Reagan administration.

By contrast, Ms. Aron's public service experience has been limited to two years on the Montgomery County Planning Board. She has never held elective office in the state.

While the two have generally agreed on some core issues, the campaign has been dominated by Ms. Aron's near-constant attacks on Mr. Brock as a tax-raising, carpetbagging, career politician.

Mr. Brock adopted the above-the-battle stance of a front-runner until the final week, when he began fighting back. The race degenerated into a series of charges and counter-charges with each candidate calling the other a liar.

Mr. Brock launched his counterattack Friday with ads pointing out that Ms. Aron, who touts herself as a successful businesswoman, had paid more than $300,000 to settle lawsuits filed against her by business partners.

"Before Ruthann Aron starts attacking anybody, maybe she ought to look in the mirror," the ad's narrator says.

Ms. Aron quickly shot back with a commercial saying that Mr. Brock was lying about her past because she had caught up with him in the polls. "On Tuesday, Maryland Republicans will show you just what they think of your mudslinging," she said in the ad.

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