Sauerbrey disavows poll patrol CAMPAIGN 1994 -- THE RACE FOR GOVERNOR

November 06, 1994|By John W. Frece | John W. Frece,Sun Staff Writer

A full week after saying she was untroubled by a Republican activist's efforts to hire poll watchers to monitor voting at Baltimore polling places, GOP gubernatorial candidate Ellen R. Sauerbrey yesterday called the plan "unacceptable."

Democrats say the underlying purpose of the "ballot security" plan being advanced by gadfly Republican Dr. Ross Z. Pierpont is to intimidate and suppress the vote by black city residents -- a bloc of voters Mrs. Sauerbrey's Democratic opponent, Parris N. Glendening, must turn out in large numbers if he is to capture Tuesday's election.

Mrs. Sauerbrey indicated yesterday she has belatedly reached the same conclusion about the purpose of the plan.

"My first reaction was, if you're a registered voter, why would you be intimidated?" she said in an interview at a campaign stop in Baltimore. "But, on thinking the implications through, particularly realizing it was aimed at Baltimore City, it was aimed at black voters, then it certainly puts a cast on it that it is unacceptable."

Her suddenly more critical view of the Pierpont effort comes as Democrats are saying the gambit already has backfired and is galvanizing the vote among blacks in Baltimore.

"What has happened is that a lot of Marylanders who have worked hard for the right to vote are very angry about it," Mr. Glendening said yesterday.

In recent days, Dr. Pierpont has moved to soften the appearance of his poll monitoring effort. He says it will not involve security guards but rather poll watchers, who will not challenge individual voters but merely count the number of voters. The intent, he says, is to be sure the number of votes recorded for a precinct is the same as the number of voters who showed up.

Yesterday, Dr. Pierpont said similar efforts helped Maryland Republicans in the 1984 and 1988 elections, and predicted Mrs. Sauerbrey and other Republicans would benefit from his effort this year, even if she disowns it.

The Maryland Democratic Party is trying to capitalize on the furor that has erupted over the Pierpont plan. One Democratic Party flier distributed in the city yesterday, written in the style of a newspaper, carries the headline, "Brock beats Sarbanes, and Glendening loses, as radical right takes over Maryland."

Then, as a subheadline, it adds: "Voter suppression in Baltimore Metro suspected."

When news of the Pierpont plan surfaced last week, Mrs. Sauerbrey said she did not know about it, but said she did not disapprove of the plan after it was described to her by a reporter. "I wouldn't think anyone would have any reason to be concerned if they are a legitimate voter," she said at the time.

Yesterday, she said she was "slow" to understand the plan's ramifications.

"I didn't really see where it was going," she said.

Despite her comments yesterday, Mrs. Sauerbrey has not written or otherwise communicated that position directly to Dr. Pierpont. But several members of her campaign staff have done so, said Carol L. Hirschburg, her press secretary.

Yesterday, Mrs. Sauerbrey and Mr. Glendening went in search of voters in essentially the same places: Baltimore, Baltimore County and Montgomery County.

Mr. Glendening began the day with a morning make-up meeting with the Maryland Coalition to End Hunger and other advocates for the poor. He had angered members of the group by missing a meeting with them that Mrs. Sauerbrey attended.

From there, his nine-stop day included an appearance at a victims' rights rally in Baltimore and a trip to eastern Baltimore County. There, the three-term Prince George's County executive met with a business group in Millers Island and shook hands with breakfast eaters at a pair of Dundalk area restaurants, and blasted Mrs. Sauerbrey at a Democratic rally in Turner Station for her support of anti-union legislation.

"He's got it in the bag," said Tony Santana, a diner at the Big Bear Den on German Hill Road. "There's no way his opponent can cut 24 percent. She has to cut programs. Somebody's going to be losing jobs."

Backers of Mrs. Sauerbrey, a four-term delegate from Baltimore County, started the day with an around-the-Beltway caravan. She later appeared at a victims' rights rally and at the Ethnic Heritage Festival at Essex Community College.

One of her supporters at the college was retired steel worker Mel Jones, 78. "We've just got to show a protest of what's going on now," he said. "I'm thinking of my grandchildren. What are they going to do if we just keep on with tax, tax, tax?"

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