Glendening declares victory 6-day count of absentee ballots points to slim margin ELECTION 1994

November 15, 1994|By John W. Frece and Doug Birch | John W. Frece and Doug Birch,Sun Staff Writers Sun staff writers Thomas W. Waldron, Robert Erlandson and Michael James contributed to this article.

Democrat Parris N. Glendening apparently clinched the Maryland governor's race yesterday, though his razor-thin lead may have to withstand a legal challenge from his Republican opponent, Ellen R. Sauerbrey.

After six days of absentee ballot counting across the state and some review of the votes cast last Tuesday, Mr. Glendening led Mrs. Sauerbrey by 5,366 votes out of more than 1.4 million cast.

Even if Mrs. Sauerbrey were to take all of the still uncounted absentee ballots -- about 2,500 statewide, including nearly 1,300 in Baltimore County -- she could not overtake Mr. Glendening unless she were successful in getting thousands of votes thrown out.

The margin was big enough for Mr. Glendening to declare victory yesterday, and to say he intends to announce his transition plans later this week.

"I am pleased I will be the next governor of Maryland, and I'm very pleased that Kathleen Kennedy Townsend will be the next lieutenant governor," he said at a Hyattsville news conference with Mrs. Townsend at his side.

"I can say with a bit of modesty I will be a very good governor. I will be strong. I will place an emphasis on consensus building and inclusion, but make the hard decisions that must be made. We will be fiscally responsible, and we will do that with compassion and vision as well."

Mrs. Sauerbrey refused to yield. Instead, she announced the formation of a committee under the auspices of the Maryland Republican Party that will raise money to investigate alleged voting "irregularities" in the governor's contest.

"I have no intention of conceding," she said at her Cockeysville campaign headquarters, which now will serve as headquarters for the GOP election inquiry.

Mrs. Sauerbrey named Charles E. "Ted" Peck, the retired chief executive officer of the Ryland Group, to head a fund-raising effort. She said her election campaign, which by law cannot spend more than the $1 million it received in public financing, had ceased to exist. She has begun paying the day-to-day expenses of her office out of her own pocket, she said.

As she has for the past week, Mrs. Sauerbrey offered little detail about what she has said are complaints of voting irregularities and possible fraud. Her campaign has said specific cases, if documented, would be withheld until needed in a possible court effort to overturn the election results.

Her troops, however, went to Circuit Court in Baltimore yesterday to demand immediate access to extensive voting records from seven city precincts carried overwhelmingly by Mr. Glendening.

A judge ruled the Sauerbrey request campaign would have to wait until next week, when city election officials have finished certifying the results.

"If she elects to bring a legal challenge, for whatever reason, she can do so," Mr. Glendening said. "That's one of the great things about America: Anyone can sue, no matter how frivolous their thoughts may be.

"But as a practical matter, for the well-being of the state, I think we ought to bring the state together and move ahead," he said.

Gene M. Raynor, state administrator of elections, said if things go smoothly -- and not much has this year -- he could have all the locally certified election results in hand by next Tuesday.

The deadline for the state's 24 local boards of election to stop accepting absentee ballots cast overseas is 4 p.m. Friday.

All this week, those boards are supposed to conduct an official canvass of the balloting -- a formal comparison of vote totals from machine, computer and paper ballots against the unofficial returns compiled Election Day.

Once Mr. Raynor has received the double-checked results from each board, he is to present them to the state Board of Canvassers -- consisting of the secretary of state, comptroller, attorney general, state treasurer and clerk of the Court of Appeals -- on Dec. 7 for final, state certification of the results.

In Baltimore, the local review of the more than 148,000 ballots cast Tuesday was completed last night. City election board officials found an additional 2,294 votes for Mr. Glendening and another 305 for Mrs. Sauerbrey, a result that added to Mr. Glendening's overall lead statewide.

Count not verified

The city board has not completed nor verified its count of more than 3,400 absentee ballots.

Mr. Glendening made it clear he believes the election is finally over.

"The voters have spoken," he said. "There is a majority for me. No matter what happens with the remainder of Baltimore County, we have a majority of the vote."

He said he did not think the final margin of victory -- a fraction of a percentage point -- "makes any difference whatsoever." Nevertheless, he conceded his task will be to strike a balance between his own program to enhance essential government services and Mrs. Sauerbrey's provocative plans to cut taxes and scale back government.

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