Glendening for Governor

October 30, 1994

Rarely have Maryland voters had a more fascinating choice for governor than in this year's contest between Democrat Parris N. Glendening and Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey. They provide a contrast in ideology, personality and their very concept of this state's most important elective office. Each candidate has made it clear that, regardless of the outcome, Maryland is due for a change of course from the eight-year administration of Gov. William Donald Schaefer. The question is how radical an alteration do the voters want.

Much of what Mrs. Sauerbrey preaches strikes a chord among citizens who believe government has gotten too big, too arrogant and aloof, too eager to spend and regulate and control on the theory that those in power know best. In Maryland, the political establishment has created a perception that this state is hostile to business. This may not be true, but perceptions count in an economic climate where localities are competing fiercely for economic growth. It is time for a change.

What has galvanized debate to a high pitch is Mrs. Sauerbrey's )) persistent, unyielding, hard-edged conservatism as encapsulated in her proposal for a 24-percent personal income tax cut over a period of four years. This was the issue that beat her favored GOP primary opponent, Helen Delich Bentley. It is an issue that frightens Democratic leaders who fear not only losing but a decline in governmental activism.

The arithmetic of the Sauerbrey tax cut leads one to the conclusion that she will either have to back away when confronted with the realities of office, or she will plunge ahead with a true-believer's zeal regardless of the consequences. Her 16-year career in Annapolis as a GOP delegate suggests the latter. Doubts about Mrs. Sauerbrey arise not because she will junk her campaign promises but because she will carry them out.

Compare this to the profile of Prince George's county executive Glendening. In raising an astounding $6 million war chest, he has made promises to teachers' groups, police organizations and voters in populous Montgomery County that would cost tens of millions of dollars if implemented. But he also has left the impression that if the state's structural budget deficit raises large obstacles, he will simply delay or abandon his proposals.

Campaign posturing aside, Mr. Glendening's 12-year career as the able executive of a large, complicated county like Prince George's is evidence that he can provide sound leadership in Annapolis. He has managed a $1 billion budget with skill. He has taken a disgraceful police department and made it respectable. He has backed educational reforms based on magnet schools. He has maintained racial harmony in a jurisdiction that turned majority black during his tenure.

Mr. Glendening's counter to Mrs. Sauerbrey's claim that her tax cut would lure business investment is a series of targeted tax incentives designed to foster economic growth. This has been his approach in Prince George's, and it reflects his nuanced, encyclopedic approach to government.

While Mr. Glendening's planning is a lot more detailed than Mrs. Sauerbrey's, this obviously is not enough. Whoever wins the state's highest office will have to convert plans into action -- and soon. Maryland has not bounced back from the early-Nineties recession as has most of the country. Staggered by the downsizing of the federal government and the sharp cutback in defense spending, the state is plagued by slow job growth, impediments to outside investment and the lack of a sustained economic development strategy.

As a politician from the Washington suburbs, Mr. Glendening has lost no time in assuring Montgomery countians that he understands their reluctance to bail out Baltimore. But he also has established close links with Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and his political guru, Larry Gibson, who managed the winning primary campaign of a Glendening ally for Prince George's county executive. Optimists believe Mr. Glendening will be good for the city; skeptics remain suspicious.

On social issues, there is little doubt that Mr. Glendening is more in sync with the state's progressive traditions than is Mrs. Sauerbrey. On abortion, gun control, welfare, the environment and help for the underclass, she represents a sharp swing to the right.

Nonetheless, Mrs. Sauerbrey deserves credit for dramatically altering this year's political debate: the next governor will be under the microscope to downsize government and create a more business-friendly climate. He/she will have to shake up the state's bureaucracy and make it smaller and more efficient. That's the only way Mr. Glendening can come close to financing his stated initiatives in education, crime-fighting and economic development. It's the only way Mrs. Sauerbrey could offset her tax cuts. Higher taxes are out of the question -- both candidates agree on that point.

Mr. Glendening claims to be an advocate of downsizing government. If elected, that should be his course. The status quo -- a quarter-century of Democratic big government -- isn't acceptable any longer. Maryland needs a leader who can create a progressive vision stressing jobs, education and a less costly government. Parris Glendening stands out as the better candidate to tackle these challenges. He has our endorsement.

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