Bennett for Attorney General

October 30, 1994

Not since Sen. Charles Mathias last ran for re-election in 1980 has the Republican Party nominated for statewide office a candidate of substance who can appeal to moderate -- as well as progressive and liberal -- Republicans, independents and Democrats. Until now.

Richard D. Bennett offers a solid reason for voting Republican in the attorney general contest. The Sun, which believes two-party politics is the climate in which good government thrives best, is pleased to see this and endorses Mr. Bennett. His election would help steer the state GOP more toward the center of the political spectrum instead of toward the far right.

While we believe Mr. Bennett's election could give aid and comfort to members of his own party -- and attract many, especially younger, Marylanders into the GOP ranks -- that is not the main reason for our endorsement. We are convinced that he has the background, legal skills, character and energy level to be a very good attorney general. We base this primarily on his record as U.S. Attorney for Maryland from 1991 to 1993. Here's an example of the sort of leadership we would anticipate from him in the attorney general's office:

He backed up an assistant U.S. attorney in her controversial but highly professional prosecution of an Eastern Shore wetlands polluter. Mr. Bennett insisted on a prison sentence, despite opposition from many conservatives and Republicans on the Shore and elsewhere. President Bush, pressured by landowner organizations and other opponents of the environmental movement (including the Wall Street Journal) to commute the sentence, declined -- but only after Mr. Bennett and another Republican, Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, made a personal appeal in the White House.

We also like Mr. Bennett's plans to enlist the state office in the war on crime. "If the attorney general doesn't lead in this kind of fight across the state, then who will?" he has said. "My priority will be dealing with the problem of violence in Maryland and particularly juvenile violence." He has promised to shift 20 or so assistant attorneys general to work with county-elected state's attorneys. That is an experiment worth trying.

Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. is one of the state's outstanding public officials. He has displayed the courage of his exemplary convictions time and again, as attorney general for eight years and in previous responsibilities. But he has been in the State House a long time -- 36 years altogether.

The election of a new governor -- be it Ellen Sauerbrey or Parris Glendening -- calls for a new kind of attorney general, one who has the energy and fortitude to act as a counterweight to the chief executive. We feel that Mr. Bennett is better suited to fill that crucial role. It is time for a change. We recommend the election of Dick Bennett as Maryland's attorney general.

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