Sauerbrey Close Brock Not

September 29, 1994

With the November elections less than six weeks away, the polls indicate that Republican Ellen Sauerbrey is in a close race with Democrat Parris Glendening for the governorship of Maryland but GOP Senate candidate Bill Brock has a long way to go in his quest to unseat Democratic incumbent Paul Sarbanes.

For Maryland voters this is good news and bad news. The good news is that the Sauerbrey-Glendening contest is etching the issues in vivid contrast. The bad news is that Senator Sarbanes can probably coast to another victory without having to defend his record. Mr. Brock has yet to come up with an issue comparable to Ms. Sauerbrey's pledge to cut state income taxes by 24 percent over four years and he remains vulnerable to counterattack if he adopts national Republican appeals for change and against taxes.

A comparison of the polling strengths of the two GOP candidates shows that Ms. Sauerbrey has pulled within seven percentage points of her opponent while Mr. Brock lags 23 points behind Mr. Sarbanes. This is mainly due to a Sauerbrey tide in home-turf Baltimore County, where she is beating Mr. Glendening by 13 points, and in the central Maryland suburbs, where her advantage is a whopping 19 points. In contrast, Mr. Brock is losing both jurisdictions by 13 points -- and therein lies the chief difference.

Ticketmates Glendening and Sarbanes are both running strong in the Washington suburbs and in Baltimore City but are behind in conservative Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore.

With Ms. Sauerbrey gaining momentum, the Glendening campaign will be under increasing pressure to blow holes in her tax-cut pledge while countering taunts that the Prince George's County executive is just another tax-and-spend Democrat. He has put together a detailed issues book, but in a political climate dominated by 30-second sound bites the Sauerbrey tax gambit is striking a receptive chord among suburban voters. Twenty-six years of Democratic control of the Governor's Mansion also plays into the public's desire for change.

In the Senate race, the pressure is reversed. It is Republican candidate Brock who has to make it a contest after having virtually disappeared following a primary victory in which he got only 39 percent of the GOP vote. Today he will be running a series of ads painting Mr. Sarbanes as a big spender and big taxer, but his call for a series of six prime time debates over commercial television, paid for by both candidates, has been snubbed. Instead, Mr. Brock will have to settle for a public service TV debate on a Saturday night, Oct. 29, plus one other appearance yet to be determined. He will have to pull a miracle comeback to overtake his opponent.

These, of course, are early days. Nothing is settled. Voters have plenty of time to assess these candidates, weigh their credentials and make their decisions. As the old saying goes, the only poll that means anything is the one on election day.

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