Roger Hayden's outlook

September 21, 1994

Although Baltimore County Executive Roger Hayden easily won the Republican primary last week, election night brought him glum tidings as well.

For starters, there was the surprising defeat of GOP gubernatorial candidate Helen Bentley. Mr. Hayden was poised to hitch a ride on Mrs. Bentley's coattails in the general election, looking to benefit from her popularity among conservative Democrats in the county's vote-rich east side. Ellen Sauerbrey's upset victory ruined that strategy. It also deprived the Hayden campaign of the logistical support provided by Mrs. Bentley's organization.

The question becomes, will Mr. Hayden and the GOP's gubernatorial nominee form an alliance? Don't bet on it. From the executive's point of view, Ellen Sauerbrey might be too conservative even for a county electorate that lists to starboard. For her part, Mrs. Sauerbrey might feel that Mr. Hayden is best kept at arm's length because of his personal and political negatives. Besides, a top Sauerbrey aide, Carol Hirschburg, is a former Hayden staffer who was fired during his February 1993 budget cuts. She certainly won't be encouraging her new boss to lend aid and comfort to her old boss.

More bad news for Mr. Hayden came in the decisive triumph of the Democratic nominee for executive, County Councilman C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger. Mr. Ruppersberger not only won big county-wide, he also swept the crucial east side. This proved what many observers had suspected before the primary -- that Mr. Ruppersberger has broad appeal and a meticulous political organization.

The outlook for Mr. Hayden is further darkened by the traditional handicap of GOP candidates in most of Maryland; they begin any general election facing a disadvantage of roughly two Democratic voters for each registered Republican.

Still, Mr. Ruppersberger shouldn't count on an easy race. As voters throughout the Baltimore region demonstrated on Sept. 13, they are in a more conservative mood than many of the so-called experts had believed. Thus Mr. Ruppersberger's hesitation to cozy up to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Parris Glendening, his avoidance of the Democratic label, his trumpeting of his friendly associations with county Republicans.

Here's where Mr. Hayden could step in and show that he, not Mr. Ruppersberger, is the true conservative in this contest. He can truthfully tell county voters that during his term in office he has been a leading agent of the fiscal conservatism now being embraced statewide by candidates of both parties. Before he was elected, Mr. Hayden said he would downsize and privatize government services. He did -- and often with the approval of Councilman Dutch Ruppersberger.

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