Cliffhanger for Governor

November 10, 1994

One million, three hundred thousand votes later, we still don't know who's the next governor of Maryland. Not until ballots, cast in absentia, are counted today will the suspense end for candidates Parris N. Glendening and Ellen R. Sauerbrey.

In yesterday's Howard County and Final (single-sales) editions, an editing error led to publication of an editorial that incorrectly indicated a narrow Glendening victory. The editorial that was scheduled to run, entitled "Too Close to Call," more accurately reflected the uncertain situation then -- and now. While Democrat Glendening clings to a 6,100-vote lead, absentee votes (50,000 ballots were requested) could change things. After all, the state Republican Party mounted a massive absentee-ballot effort this fall.

It has been 60 years since a governor's race was this close. There is almost certain to be a recount, maybe a court challenge. Yet neither candidate should be happy with this split-decision. It's a weak mandate, at best.

Take Mr. Glendening's plight. He was clobbered in rural counties and took just 40 percent of the vote in the Baltimore suburbs. Seven-eighths of the counties rejected his candidacy. Mrs. Sauerbrey, meanwhile, got only 37 percent in the Washington suburbs; in Baltimore City, she limped home with 25 percent. Given the importance of these areas to Maryland, her showing is a matter of concern.

Voters had less trouble making up their minds in other races. J. Joseph Curran won a third term as attorney general, overcoming a spirited challenge from Republican Dick Bennett. Louis L. Goldstein handily won an unprecedented 10th term as comptroller. And in a succession of counties, voters ousted incumbent Democrats from the legislature and selected Republicans for local councils.

For instance, in Harford County, voters gave Republicans every single seat on the County Council and then booted out a longtime political fixture, state Sen. Habern Freeman. Republicans now control the councils and executive offices in Howard and Anne Arundel counties and all three commissioner seats in Carroll County.

There is no doubt what voters want to see: smaller government, a lower tax burden and innovative ways to deliver services cheaply but efficiently. That will be the challenge of Maryland's next chief executive -- once we find out if the governor-elect is named Sauerbrey or Glendening.

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