From Sore Loser to Shadow Governor

November 27, 1994|By BARRY RASCOVAR

She's not exactly lurking in the shadows these days, but pretty soon Marylanders may start calling Ellen Sauerbrey the state's shadow governor.

It seems to work well in Britain, so why not in a former British colony? When a party -- either the Liberals or the Conservatives TC loses an election in the British Isles, the opposition forms a shadow government, complete with a shadow cabinet and, of course, a shadow prime minister.

Mrs. Sauerbrey is certainly acting out the role of shadow governor. She grabbed headlines throughout the country last week for attending the Republican governors' conference in Williamsburg just as though she were about to be sworn in.

The fact that she lost the election -- even though her most fanatical and ideologically pure followers refuse to admit it and are culling voter lists to prove ''fraud'' -- doesn't faze her at all. In her heart, she knows she won, even if reality dictates otherwise.

And reality does indicate a defeat for Mrs. Sauerbrey. Yes, it was close (though not nearly as close as this year's race for governor in Alaska, or a number of other races for Maryland governor earlier in this century). But Mrs. Sauerbrey lost.

It's not very complicated. She got clobbered in urbanized parts of the state and couldn't make up the difference.

Why is it so hard to understand that her lead evaporated around midnight of Election Day when the city votes came in? No conspiracy here -- the city's votes always come in later than the rest of the state. The city still uses antediluvian vote-gathering methods and has far, far more precincts than any other jurisdiction -- nearly a quarter of the entire state's total.

And why the surprise that Mrs. Sauerbrey bombed in many Baltimore neighborhoods? So did George Bush and Ronald Reagan in past elections. Republicans, who often have been hostile to the city, just aren't popular in these areas.

Still, Mrs. Sauerbrey's supporters are zealously weaving a complicated web of conspiracies to explain her non-election. It's all a plot, you see. And like any good conspiracy, there's a Catch-22 that explains how the Evil Empire of Democrats controls all the election levers.

Why, the Democrats appoint the election officials, after all! No wonder Republicans couldn't stop the vote count to accommodate the unreasonable Sauerbrey demands. And the Democrats also appoint all the state

judges. Is it any wonder that Republicans couldn't get a fair shake in court on their requests to stop the election results from being certified?

If the Sauerbrey forces had their way, the election results would be dissected vote by vote, even if it took four years of legal wrangling to do it. Of course, that would allow William Donald Schaefer to serve another 48 months -- not exactly the ideal solution for all those Schaefer-haters in the Sauerbrey camp.

But barring a stupendous reversal by the courts, Mrs. Sauerbrey someday will have to relinquish the front page to Mr. Glendening and take her place as Maryland's shadow governor. She will still attack every Glendening move, aided by an enlarged and more obstructionist Republican minority in the state legislature. But why not adopt the British model?

Mrs. Sauerbrey could hold a shadow-governor swearing-in ceremony at the Timonium Fairgrounds Cow Palace and then deliver her inaugural shadow address. A few weeks later, she could give her State of the Shadow State address, perhaps in the St. John's College auditorium three blocks from the state capital. Heck, she might even get Republican legislators to boycott the Glendening address that same day to cheer the shadow governor's speech.

She could name a shadow cabinet: Budget secretary, Thomas Schmidt; licensing secretary, William Fogle; personnel secretary, Roger Hayden; transportation secretary, Helen Bentley; welfare secretary, Alan Keyes; health secretary, Dr. Ross Pierpont; corrections secretary, Robin Ficker; education secretary, Linda Chavez; state police secretary, Paul Rappaport, and economic development secretary, Blair Lee IV.

She could unveil a shadow budget -- the one that cuts spending across the board so easily it doesn't even hurt (shadow budget reductions tend to be painless). She could announce, to much applause, her shadow tax cut. And since she doesn't really have to eliminate anything to make it happen, this is one tax cut that is do-able.

The only problem confronting Mrs. Sauerbrey is where to establish her official shadow residence. Her farm on Sweet Air Road in rural Baltimore County won't do. No, an Annapolis abode must be found, perhaps even on State Circle. From that perch, Mrs. Sauerbrey could keep watch over the Evil Empire until 1998, waiting for her moment of vindication.

Barry Rascovar is editorial-page director of The Sun.

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