Sauerbrey abandons election appeal

January 16, 1995|By Michael James | Michael James,Sun Staff Writer

Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey said yesterday that she won't take her legal challenge of the gubernatorial election to the state's highest court, a decision made after advisers warned that the battle would be too costly in terms of money and public opinion.

In a brief written statement, Mrs. Sauerbrey announced that she was abandoning her scheduled appeal of Friday's Anne Arundel County Circuit Court decision that rejected her attempt to nullify Gov.-elect Parris N. Glendening's narrow victory in November.

"We are announcing that the appeal in the Maryland Court of Appeals is being withdrawn," the statement said, adding that Mrs. Sauerbrey would make an announcement today about her pTC "future course of action."

Sources close to Mrs. Sauerbrey said she also has ruled out filing a federal lawsuit -- a possibility discussed late last week as the Anne Arundel case unraveled -- in part because of legal costs they said could have reached $100,000 a week.

"Our litigational days are over," said one member of the Sauerbrey camp. "The approach of suing is not going to be utilized any further."

At a news conference today, Mrs. Sauerbrey is expected to say she is no longer pursuing any litigation but will push for legislation to tighten and improve Maryland's electoral process.

Judge Raymond G. Thieme Jr. ruled last week that her investigation uncovered flaws in the process but that they were too minor to justify throwing out the election's results.

Mrs. Sauerbrey's decision to withdraw came after a grueling day of discussions Saturday, when longtime advisers urged her to end her legal fight. They cited concern not only over Mrs. Sauerbrey's popularity, which a recent poll found has fallen sharply, but also that of Maryland's Republican Party, sources said.

The Maryland Court of Appeals had been scheduled to hear the case this afternoon. Attorneys filed the appeal within minutes of Judge Thieme's decision that Mrs. Sauerbrey's claims of irregularities and possible fraud were based on faulty data and unsupported conclusions.

Last night, Mr. Glendening, who won the Nov. 8 election by 5,993 votes out of 1.4 million cast, said he was pleased with Mrs. Sauerbrey's decision not to appeal. But he was quick to add that her claims of fraud have hurt Maryland.

"The state has been held up as an embarrassment to the rest of the country. Whenever you make wild accusations of dead people voting, it makes national news," Mr. Glendening said.

No evidence of ballots cast in the names of dead voters was introduced in court. On the eve of the trial, Mrs. Sauerbrey's attorneys talked of 89 such votes, but checking by reporters found no such balloting.

Mr. Glendening estimated that it cost him more than $250,000 to fight Mrs. Sauerbrey's allegations in court. He estimated that the state has even larger bills from defending the case, though figures were not available yesterday.

"The taxpayers have obviously paid for this little adventure of hers," Mr. Glendening said.

State Republican Party Chairwoman Joyce L. Terhes said Mrs. Sauerbrey intends to do little more today than to announce plans for legislation that would "tighten up the voting procedure."

"Ellen can be a tremendous asset to Maryland and to the rest of the country in dealing with the problem," Ms. Terhes said. "There's no question this will be an emphasis of hers from now on."

Ms. Terhes called Mrs. Sauerbrey's move to drop her appeal "a courageous decision" and said her investigation of the election helped point out weak areas in Maryland's voting system.

Judge Thieme and the State Administrative Board of Election Laws called last week for an investigation into some of the problems highlighted during the challenge, such as the failure by the Baltimore elections office to purge thousands of ineligible voters from the rolls.

"The judge acknowledged from the bench that there are indeed problems in Baltimore City," Ms. Terhes said. "We will put a great deal of emphasis on election judges and having people in polling places from here on out. We'll be following the machines to the warehouse. We've learned a tremendous amount."

In the meeting Saturday, sources said John M. Carbone, an election specialist from New Jersey who handled the election inquiry for Mrs. Sauerbrey, urged that the appeal go forward on the basis of new evidence.

Details of that evidence were not disclosed.

The evidence was reviewed but was not considered strong enough to support any further court challenges, sources said.

Ms. Terhes said that despite the loss in court, she believed that Mrs. Sauerbrey would be an energetic proponent of election law reform.

"Ellen is Ellen. She'll be out there fighting 100 percent," Ms. Terhes said.

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