Seeking political center CAMPAIGN 1994 -- THE RACE FOR GOVERNOR

November 03, 1994|By Robert Timberg and William F. Zorzi Jr. | Robert Timberg and William F. Zorzi Jr.,Sun Staff Writers

Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey and Democrat Parris N. Glendening battled for the political center yesterday, employing an assortment of campaign techniques to portray themselves as moderates in touch with the mainstream of Maryland.

Mrs. Sauerbrey, described by Mr. Glendening as a right-wing extremist, appeared with Constance A. Morella, the moderate Montgomery County congresswoman, while her campaign aides distributed fliers assuring state workers that her election would not jeopardize their jobs.

Mr. Glendening, whom Mrs. Sauerbrey calls a tax-and-spend liberal, joined forces with ex-Massachusetts Sen. Paul E. Tsongas, a Democrat and nationally prominent fiscal conservative, and broadcast new TV ads that present him as a prudent manager and friend of business during his 12 years as Prince George's County executive.

The activities of both camps were in line with the time-honored pattern by which a candidate, having solidified his or her ideological base, moves toward the center in the waning days of a closely contested campaign in hopes of claiming the undecided vote.

Geography was at play, too. Both candidates spent much of the day in Montgomery County, the most populous of the state's 24 major subdivisions and a battleground where Tuesday's election may well be decided.

At one point Mrs. Sauerbrey played to the resentment of those Montgomery residents who feel the county underwrites much of the state aid received by Baltimore City. The promises Mr. Glendening has made to Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, she told reporters, "will be paid for by the voters of Montgomery County."

Mr. Glendening, who has pledged additional police aid and other assistance to the city, responded with perhaps his strongest attack to date on his opponent.

"There is a politics of divisiveness going on," he said, when asked his reaction to Mrs. Sauerbrey's comment. "There's a politics that says, 'Pit African-American against Jew, pit central city vs. suburbs, pit Baltimore vs. Montgomery County,' and I believe that politics of divisiveness is absolutely wrong.

"Every time she makes those comments, I expect people to say, 'How are you going to be governor when you're tearing this state apart,' and that's what that politics does," Mr. Glendening said.

Earlier, Mrs. Sauerbrey, the GOP leader of the Maryland House, moved to soften the Glendening-fostered perceptions that she is an extreme conservative by greeting rush-hour commuters at the Shady Grove metro station with Mrs. Morella.

Mrs. Morella, also a Republican, spoke warmly of Mrs. Sauerbrey, praised her campaign, introduced her to voters but stopped short of formally endorsing her. A Morella aide later explained that the congresswoman rarely endorses anyone -- though she did back her congressional colleague, Helen Delich Bentley, over Mrs. Sauerbrey in the GOP gubernatorial primary.

Mrs. Sauerbrey's efforts yesterday to associate herself with Mrs. Morella seemed to be paying dividends as the two women greeted morning rush-hour commuters.

"I think it opens a door for Ellen in Montgomery County big time," said state Sen. Howard A. Denis, a Bethesda Republican who was Mrs. Bentley's running-mate. "I think it lends Ellen Sauerbrey enhanced credibility and helps to put the lie to Glendening's [assertion] that she is an extremist."

Thomas J. Madden, a federal worker racing for a train, said he was an independent leaning toward Mrs. Sauerbrey because of her pledge to cut personal income taxes by 24 percent over four years. But he said Mrs. Morella's presence made a difference, too.

"She's been painted as someone out on the fringe," he said of Mrs. Sauerbrey. "Morella helps give the impression that she's more in the middle."

Mrs. Morella, who supports some issues opposed by Mrs. Sauerbrey, such as gun control and abortion rights, and has not taken a position on the Sauerbrey tax cut proposal, said of the party standard bearer, "Ellen is a committed woman of integrity."

Mrs. Sauerbrey received another boost in Montgomery yesterday when Democrat Blair Lee IV, an influential columnist for the Montgomery Journal, endorsed her, calling her "someone we can trust to be our fiscal watchdog."

Mr. Glendening pulled out the party stops yesterday, rallying the Democratic hierarchy behind him as he zipped through Montgomery County to campaign events in Bethesda, Rockville and Gaithersburg.

At a news conference in Gaithersburg, Mr. Tsongas praised Mr. Glendening -- who co-chaired his 1992 presidential primary campaign in Maryland -- as being the "new prototype of Democrat." He described that as someone who is sensitive to social issues, but who also is "pro-business, pro-economic growth, fiscally responsible."

Mr. Tsongas then tore into Mrs. Sauerbrey and her tax cut proposal, predicting economic havoc if she is elected.

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