Sauerbrey challenges Glendening to local TV debate

October 09, 1994|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,Sun Staff Writer

C Charging that her Democratic opponent has "ducked and dodged" opportunities to meet her face to face, GOP gubernatorial candidate Ellen R. Sauerbrey is challenging Prince George's County Executive Parris N. Glendening to a debate televised on a network-affiliated station.

In a letter dated Oct. 7 and released to the news media yesterday, Mrs. Sauerbrey said she was "appalled" that the first face-off between the two since the primary election will be at an untelevised debate tomorrow night in Ocean City before the Maryland Chamber of Commerce.

"I believe that the citizens of Maryland deserve more from us than sound bites and 30-second television spots," Mrs. Sauerbrey wrote to Mr. Glendening. "I am, therefore, challenging you to debate on network-affiliated television broadcasts which will reach most Marylanders."

She charged that he had "evaded" the invitations of "many organizations" by leading them "to believe that you would accommodate their requests, only to have you back out at the last moment."

A Glendening campaign spokesman dismissed the suggestion that the Democrat is hiding from Mrs. Sauerbrey and used the opportunity yesterday once again to paint her as a conservative fringe candidate.

"The story is that Ellen Sauerbrey is scared to death that people are starting to look at her record and realizing that she is an extremist, out-of-the-mainstream, anti-choice [anti-abortion

rights], pro-assault-weapon radical," said David Seldin, spokesman for the Glendening campaign.

"We don't consider this letter a serious proposal, as much a diversionary campaign tactic," Mr. Seldin said. "She is trying to create whatever diversion she can."

The two candidates are scheduled to meet each other three times before the Nov. 8 general election -- at the chamber's legislative meeting tomorrow, at a Montgomery County forum Oct. 18 that will be shown on a local cable station, and in a live session on Maryland Public Television Oct. 19.

But the Glendening campaign has rejected at least three opportunities for network-affiliated television debates.

Those were offers by WBAL-TV, which wanted the candidates to appear together on a program in which they would be questioned by an audience; by Washington's WETA-TV, which wanted to schedule a debate; and last week, by WMAR-TV, which also wanted a debate.

The WMAR-TV offer caused a minor flap yesterday, after Mr. Seldin told a reporter Mr. Glendening was unable to commit to the Baltimore television station's debate because of a scheduling conflict.

The station, however, maintained its offer was good until the general election.

Mr. Seldin and Emily Smith, Mr. Glendening's campaign manager, said they understood WMAR-TV's offer for a debate on the station's "Face to Face" program to be for the coming week. Mr. Seldin said he believed the offer was for Wednesday evening.

But Darcel H. M. Guy, director of public affairs for WMAR-TV, said the invitation was open-ended -- which is how Carol L. Hirschburg, communications director for the Sauerbrey campaign, said she understood it.

Ms. Guy said Mr. Glendening's campaign manager told her Thursday "absolutely, positively no, they just didn't have the time . . . before the general election." Ms. Smith said yesterday her recollection of the conversation was different.

She also said she would entertain another date if Ms. Guy called her back, but added: "We have a very busy schedule and have lots of requests for many different types of events. . . . It's not possible to do everything you'd like to do in the course of the campaign."

Mr. Seldin said, "I'm not ruling anything out," but would not commit to agreeing to another televised debate.

"We're going to have three debates in the next two weeks, at least one of which [the public television forum] is going to be televised to every part of Maryland," he said.

Mrs. Sauerbrey, the Maryland House minority leader from Baltimore County, successfully used a similar debate tack against her opponent in the Republican primary, U.S. Rep. Helen Delich Bentley. She said then that Mrs. Bentley, who missed more than four dozen candidate forums, was deliberately avoiding her and the issues.

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