Drawing the line in the 2nd CAMPAIGN 1994 -- CONGRESS 2ND DISTRICT

October 16, 1994|By Glenn Small | Glenn Small,Sun Staff Writer

Their similarities are well documented.

They went to the same high school and the same college. They're both young lawyers, and they were both elected to the Maryland House of Delegates from nearby districts.

In fact, the hardest job facing Ger- ry L. Brewster and Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. in their bid for Maryland's 2nd District congressional seat may be showing how they're different.

For instance, Mr. Ehrlich, 36, a Gilman and Princeton graduate like Mr. Brewster, is well-respected in the Democrat-dominated Maryland House of Delegates, where he served eight years. One of the Eastside's most popular Democrats, Dundalk Del. Louis L. DePazzo, is campaigning vigorously for him.

But Mr. Ehrlich is the Republican.

Mr. Brewster, 37, a former prosecutor under a popular Republican state's attorney, supports a variety of Republican positions, such as a balanced budget amendment, line-item presidential budget veto and term limits for Congress. He counts a number of Republicans as supporters, including tennis star Pam Shriver and former U.S. Sen. Charles McC. Mathias.

But Mr. Brewster is the Democrat.

"I recognize the similarities," said Mr. Brewster, "but I believe that there are very real differences between us on the issues of the day."

In the 2nd District, which includes eastern Baltimore County, all of Harford County and a sliver of northern Anne Arundel, the conservative messages of both candidates should appeal to voters in both parties.

Many politicians predict a close race in a district that has a 2-to-1 Democratic registration edge but tends to vote for the GOP in presidential elections and kept outgoing Republican Rep. Helen D. Bentley in office for a decade.

On the issues, both candidates favor welfare reform, the balanced budget and line-item veto. They also support congressional reforms, including one that would limit a bill to a single subject -- eliminating a longtime source of pork barrel and logrolling legislation.

Locally, both candidates have spoken against the Moving to Opportunity program, a federal plan to move over 285 poor inner city Baltimore families to better neighborhoods in the city and the suburbs, which has sparked outrage in Eastern Baltimore County.

One issue they differ on -- and it could be important to the election -- is gun control. Many voters in Harford County and eastern Baltimore County are against it and are angry about a provision of the recent federal crime bill that banned certain assault-style weapons.

dTC Just this year, in the General Assembly, Mr. Ehrlich voted against a similar state ban on assault-style weapons, while Mr. Brewster voted for it.

Mr. Ehrlich said many Eastside residents he encounters are focusing on the gun debate. He said he voted against the assault weapons ban because it made criminals of thousands of law-abiding Marylanders. He said he favors cracking down on the "criminal misuse" of firearms, rather than passing more gun control legislation.

Mr. Brewster acknowledges that his vote on the assault weapons ban was dangerous and that some advisers warned him that it could cost him the election.

"I think politically it's going to hurt me," he said. "I say that because the NRA zealots vote only on that issue."

As a gun owner, he said, he has no interest in banning ordinary handguns, rifles and shotguns. But he said he voted for the bill because he thinks there's no legitimate use for assault-style pistols.

"There are just some things that we don't allow to be on the streets. I mean, we don't allow hand grenades," he said.

L Another important issue is crime -- and what to do about it.

Mr. Brewster has been broadcasting his background as a prosecutor -- including a powerful radio ad featuring an Essex woman who was almost killed by her ex-husband -- a man Mr. Brewster prosecuted in 1987.

Both he and Mr. Ehrlich support the death penalty and call for tougher sentences for violent criminals.

But Mr. Brewster has lashed out at Mr. Ehrlich for not supporting a victims' rights bill in 1990 and 1992, a measure Mr. Ehrlich did vote for this year, when it passed.

Mr. Brewster accused Mr. Ehrlich of flip-flopping on the issue for political gain in an election year, but Mr. Ehrlich countered that this year's bill was rewritten and was better than previous versions.

"There's a lot of legislation with good titles that would make bad law," Mr. Ehrlich said.

Even on the crime issue, it's difficult for Mr. Brewster and Mr. Ehrlich to separate themselves. In fact, the Maryland State Fraternal Order of Police named them Co-Legislators of the Year for 1994, the first time the award had been given to two lawmakers.

Both candidates acknowledge that the race is close, and both say they are confident of winning. Both candidates have raised just over $300,000, and both have pockets of strong support throughout the district.

Mr. Brewster has the backing of labor unions, including the AFL-CIO, which supported Dundalk Del. Connie Galiazzo DeJuliis in the Democratic primary. Mrs. DeJuliis and Mr. Brewster waged a tough, sometimes bitter campaign, but they have mended their fences, and she has thrown her support his way.

On the Eastside, Mr. Brewster has strong backing from Essex politicians such as Sen. Michael J. Collins and from some Dundalk officials, including Sen. Norman L. Stone Jr. and outgoing Dundalk Councilman Donald Mason.

Sen. American Joe Miedusiewski, who finished second in the Democratic primary for governor, has endorsed Mr. Brewster, and Mr. Miedusiewski's former campaign manager now runs the Brewster campaign.

Mr. Ehrlich, too, has significant support. Besides Delegate DePazzo, other "Democrats for Ehrlich" include former Del. Joseph J. "Sonny" Minnick and former Parkville Councilman William Evans.

Ellen R. Sauerbrey, the Republican candidate for governor, also has endorsed Mr. Ehrlich.

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