Baltimore turnout key to race CAMPAIGN 1994 -- THE RACE FOR GOVERNOR

October 25, 1994|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,Sun Staff Writer Sun staff writer Eric Siegel contributed to this article.

Parris N. Glendening wants all of Baltimore to wake up in a cold sweat on Election Day, rush to the voting booth and pull the lever next to his name.

By all accounts, Mr. Glendening needs a big turnout from the city's voters to become the next governor. And he's trying to scare them to the polls.

If Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey's tax-cut plans are enacted, he warns on his frequent swings through town, city services will be slashed or property taxes will soar -- either of which would accelerate the city's decline.

In short, he says, "Baltimore City will die on the vine."

With Mrs. Sauerbrey hanging close in the polls, Mr. Glendening must turn out his voters in the three jurisdictions the polls say he is winning -- Baltimore City, as well as Montgomery and Prince George's counties.

Mr. Glendening is better known to voters in the two Washington suburban counties. But turnout in Baltimore looms as one of the campaign's great unanswered questions.

The Democrat and his troops hope to blanket Baltimore over the next two weeks with their city-in-peril message, drumming up fear of Mrs. Sauerbrey and excitement about the professor from Prince George's with the funny name.

"We know where our voters are. We just have to get them out," says John T. Willis, Mr. Glendening's chief political adviser. "We'll take extraordinary measures to do that."

There will be door-to-door leafleting, phone banks, union rallies, a cross-city walk and pleadings from the pulpit. Mr. Glendening has even had his running mate -- a Kennedy, no less -- going door-to-door in some of Baltimore's poorest neighborhoods to generate enthusiasm.

Glendening aides say Kathleen Kennedy Townsend is always well received. But many things are working against Mr. Glendening in Baltimore, and nervous elected officials are privately wondering just how many loyal Democrats will bother to go out and vote Nov. 8.

Although he is warmly supported by the city's leading politician, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, Mr. Glendening, the three-term Prince George's county executive, has no established political base of his own here.

And with a dearth of Republican candidates, there are almost no competitive legislative or congressional races in the city to spark interest.

Some Democratic lawmakers are offering only tepid support for Mr. Glendening. One city legislator, for example, says he is doing next to nothing for Mr. Glendening, partly because he believes Mrs. Sauerbrey's message is resonating with a significant number of voters.

"Practically speaking, on paper, it's hard to see a very substantial turnout in Baltimore City," says Keith Haller, a Montgomery County-based pollster and political adviser. The vote total will be low, he says, "unless the grass-roots organization is unbelievably together and well financed."

Many Democrats assume that Mrs. Sauerbrey's voters across the state, passionate about her call for lower taxes and less government, will turn out eagerly and in big numbers. "They would trudge through a foot of snow to pull a lever for her," says one Democratic activist.

Mrs. Sauerbrey's key campaign plank -- a proposal to cut personal income tax rates by 24 percent over

four years -- would lead to reductions in state aid for Baltimore, Democrats say.

No local cuts?

Mrs. Sauerbrey has said she would not cut local aid the first year and hopes to avoid such cuts after that as well. But Mr. Glendening says her program will inevitably lead either to intolerable cuts in city services and school spending or an increase in the city's property tax rate.

Mr. Schmoke even ventured to say last week that Baltimore would have to increase its property tax rate by 22 1/2 percent by 1999 if her tax reduction plan were enacted.

The mayor said he based his prediction -- which would put Baltimore's tax rate at $7.15 -- on an analysis by Henry W. Bogdan, the city's top legislative liaison with Annapolis.

Sauerbrey aides denied the mayor's assertion, calling it a political ploy to boost Mr. Glendening's support.

If the prospect of increased local taxes isn't scary enough, Democratic candidates are also urging people to come out to vote against conservative U.S. Sens. Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond.

Those two Republicans are not on the Maryland ballot, of course, but they would benefit if enough Democrats -- such as Maryland's Paul S. Sarbanes -- lose the election and the GOP wins control of the Senate.

'Clear and present'

"Some people may not see the clear and present danger and therefore they may just sit it out," says Sen. Clarence W. Blount, a Baltimore Democrat. "They should be angry, but they don't know it yet."

To fuel that anger, several unions are spreading the anti-Sauerbrey message, and the state Democratic Party has established a huge get-out-the-vote operation on behalf of Mr. JTC Glendening and its other statewide candidates, complete with phone banks, literature drops and rallies.

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