A voter's lament

November 04, 1994|By Lisa Hurka -Covington

ON TUESDAY I'll exercise my constitutional right to vote, then I'll probably go home and cry. Why? Because Helen Delich Bentley won't be on the ballot for governor.

You see, Mrs. Bentley is more than just my representative in Congress; she is my friend. It was through our friendship and working as a volunteer for her campaign that I became convinced that she was the best choice to become the next governor of Maryland.

I became such a believer in Mrs. Bentley that after 15 years as a Democrat I became a Republican this year. After trying to avoid any involvement with politics, I wound up volunteering for her campaign, working five or six hours a day.

Initially, I met Mrs. Bentley because my husband has done plumbing work for her for over 15 years. Since I handle his calls, I would assist Mrs. Bentley when she phoned for service.

I first met her in person three years ago, when I turned to her after my psychologically disturbed sister committed suicide. I had wanted her to know about the problems of people such as my sister who are released from psychiatric facilities prematurely.

Mrs. Bentley, who deals with dozens of constituents in a week, appeared to be visibly moved by the details of my sister's death. Her eyes moistened as I told her how my sister used a handgun to kill herself. That meeting showed me that the Helen Bentley portrayed in the media as a rough and gruff woman is really a down to earth, compassionate person. From that moment I have always treasured Mrs. Bentley.

When it appeared that she would probably run for governor, I knew that I would become involved in her campaign. In January I began volunteering at her office, answering calls, addressing envelopes and other work that would help in her run for governor. Eventually, I even got my husband and our 15-year-old son involved in the campaign.

On primary election day in September I was riding high, convinced -- just as all of the political pundits were -- that Mrs. Bentley would win the primary. That day my son and I decorated the Exhibition Hall at Timonium Fairgrounds for what we thought would be a victory party.

TTC But about 8 p.m. that night it became apparent that Mrs. Bentley might be upset by Ellen Sauerbrey. I was flooded with a sense of disbelief that then turned to sadness.

"How could she have lost?" I kept asking myself. Didn't people remember all of her years of working to help the Port of Baltimore? Don't they know she would have brought more jobs to Maryland?

After conversations with many people, I've concluded that many people who were Bentley supporters didn't vote; they simply assumed that she would win without their vote.

While Mrs. Bentley's loss was a crushing blow to me in the short run, in the long run my nine-month involvement with her campaign has made me a new woman. I now want to fight for my beliefs.

So when I saw those three mothers whose sons were shot to death protesting in front of Mrs. Sauerbrey's headquarters on York Road in Baltimore County, I joined them. We want Mrs. Sauerbrey to change her opposition to more gun-control laws. Our daily, two-hour vigil, which began on Oct. 18, will continue through Election Day. I think stricter gun-control laws might have prevented my sister's death.

While Mrs. Bentley is not a gun-control advocate, I believe that as governor she would have listened to the people and would have favored toughening our gun-control laws. Mrs. Sauerbrey won't even meet with us to discuss her opposition to gun control.

Mrs. Bentley's loss has taught me to choose the candidate over the political party. So on Election Day I will vote for Parris Glendening because of his stand on gun control. My sister's death has taught me that life is the most precious thing. But I hope that Mr. Glendening won't continue the Democratic way of taxing and spending.

Election night will be the toughest time for me as I shed a few tears over what might have been. But I know in my heart that Mrs. Bentley will continue to fight for the people. All of her years of dedication to the people of Maryland will never be forgotten.

Lisa Hurka-Covington writes from Towson.

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