Glendening on brink of win Sauerbrey says she may not close gap of 2,543 votes ELECTION 1994

November 12, 1994|By Robert Timberg and Thomas W. Waldron | Robert Timberg and Thomas W. Waldron,Sun Staff Writers Sun staff writers Frank Langfitt, JoAnna Daemmrich, Michael James and Robert Erlandson contributed to this article.

Democrat Parris N. Glendening was clinging to a slim lead over Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey last night and seemed destined to be declared Maryland's next governor if the current trend in the absentee ballot count continues.

Mrs. Sauerbrey appeared to acknowledge as much. "We might not close the gap," she said. "But the issue, regardless of how the absentee ballots turn out -- and I'm not conceding that -- there is a much more significant issue in terms of the election process."

"From our perspective, we're just continuing to work," she said. She vowed to fight on through legal means as a team of 16 investigators working under her running mate, Paul H. Rappaport, began looking into complaints of voter fraud and election irregularities.

The Glendening camp, meanwhile, expressed confidence, though no claim of victory has yet been forthcoming. "We just think the margin will increase and Parris Glendening will be the next governor," said campaign spokesman Eric Andrus.

Mrs. Sauerbrey conferred with campaign aides and lawyers, then did some television interviews. Mr. Glendening took the day off, driving to Ocean City for some post-election relaxation with his -- wife, Frances Anne, and the couple's 14-year-old son, Raymond.

For the second straight day, the tallying of absentee ballots proceeded at a glacial pace in the state's four largest subdivisions: the city of Baltimore and Prince George's, Montgomery and Baltimore counties. Ballots were also being tallied in less-populous Calvert County.

During the day, Mrs. Sauerbrey closed to within 1,569 votes of Mr. Glendening after trailing him by 6,187 out of nearly 1.4 million cast when the regular vote count was completed Tuesday night. But the votes that moved her that close came from rural and suburban counties, all of which she carried on Tuesday. Last night, as votes began trickling in from Baltimore City -- a Glendening stronghold -- Mr. Glendening climbed back up to a lead of 2,338.

So far, the absentee votes have roughly mirrored the Tuesday vote in terms of support. Of the four major subdivisions outstanding last night, only Baltimore County backed Mrs. Sauerbrey. The city, Prince George's and Montgomery strongly embraced Mr. Glendening's candidacy. Unless the absentee results from those three subdivisions buck the trend and differ markedly from Tuesday, there is little likelihood that Mrs. Sauerbrey can win the popular vote.

Election officials in Baltimore City and Prince George's were working into the night in an effort to complete the tally, but officials in Montgomery and Baltimore counties were scheduled to work through the weekend.

Even when all the absentee ballots are added to Tuesday's tally, the process won't be over. Election officials will spend much of next week reviewing the Tuesday returns from all 1,702 polling places across the state. Only when they've finished will they certify official results, which is expected to happen Friday.

Maryland voters and the staffs of the two candidates remained in varying degrees of suspense yesterday as the counting of absentee ballots at times deteriorated into pitched battles at local election boards.

The mood was perhaps best embodied by Glendening spokesman Andrus, who answered his phone early in the day by saying, "Greetings from campaign purgatory."

For the most part, the action was carried on by lawyers and

spokesmen for the two candidates.

Carol Hirschburg, Mrs. Sauerbrey's communications director, said that 16 professional investigators -- former police officers and some current ones working on their own time -- would probe complaints under Mr. Rappaport, a former Howard County police chief.

The overall operation, lawyers and investigators, are under former Republican U.S. Attorney George Beall, who headed the prosecutorial team whose probe of Spiro T. Agnew led to his resignation as vice president of the United States in 1973.

"The mission is to assure the citizens of Maryland that the election was conducted fairly and honestly," Mr. Beall said.

Gene M. Raynor, state election board administrator, said he had seen nothing to support claims the election was conducted unfairly. "Barring evidence of any wrongdoing, I have nothing to state except that this was the smoothest election I have seen as far as the electorate going to the polls and casting their ballots with no problems," he said.

From the Glendening camp, Mr. Andrus said, "We'd like to move on. The entire state is anticipating the results of the absentee ballot count." After the count and the official canvass are complete, he said, complaints can be filed.

Meanwhile, disputes over absentee ballots continued.

In Baltimore County, where 6,567 votes are at stake, representatives of the candidates argued over nearly every one.

By 5 p.m., when work stopped for the day, only a few hundred ballots had been tallied, with challenged votes counted separately.

No results were announced.

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