Glendening declares victory

November 16, 1994

With all but overseas ballots counted, it looks as though Parris N. Glendening -- barring an unexpected development -- will be Maryland's next governor. The Prince George's County Democrat has held two press conferences in two days to hammer home the point that he has won the election, not Republican Ellen Sauerbrey.

The margin of victory, still being disputed by a bitter Sauerbrey camp, is just 5,405 votes out of 1.4 million cast. But once Mr. Glendening assumes office, the narrowness of the victory won't matter.

The powers of Maryland's governor are immense, regardless of a winning candidate's electoral majority. In a winner-take-all system, coming close doesn't count.

In the days ahead, Mrs. Sauerbrey will have to either prove in court her charges of sweeping ballot tampering or admit she lost simply because the other candidate got more votes. Merely shouting "fraud" ill-serves Maryland voters. The sooner the cloud of ambiguity is removed, the better.

Meanwhile, Mr. Glendening has big transition plans to draw up. He should not rely too heavily on his wife, Frances Anne, for guidance. With more experienced statewide figures leading the transition, the new administration can avoid a Maryland version of the Hillary Clinton flap. In the coming weeks, there are hundreds of key jobs to fill, as well as a budget to be drawn up with the cooperation of the outgoing Schaefer administration.

It will be Mr. Glendening's task to reach out to parts of the state where he fared poorly. The sense of alienation in these regions must be erased. Mr. Glendening cannot be perceived as loading his administration with city appointees or with old allies from his home county of Prince George's.

He has to try to accommodate conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans and form a solid working rapport with the House and Senate leadership of both parties. Voters want a smaller but more efficient government. They don't want gridlock in the State House.

Mr. Glendening would do well to study what happened in neighboring Virginia in 1989, when Democrat L. Douglas Wilder beat Republican J. Marshall Coleman for the governorship by 6,741 votes (out of 1.7 million cast). Mr. Wilder -- the first black governor in Virginia -- never looked back, wielding the power of his office to make huge budget cuts and gain legislative approval of an ambitious agenda.

Will Mr. Glendening be as successful? He has proven administrative skills and a reputation as a bridge-builder. That's what Maryland needs.

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