Sauerbrey refuses to concede defeat but wishes foe well

January 17, 1995|By John W. Frece | John W. Frece,Sun Staff Writer Sun staff writer Michael James contributed to this article.

Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey finally gave up her quest to be governor yesterday but refused to concede she lost the election.

"I will always believe we won the election. The problem is, we weren't able to prove it in the time we had available," Mrs. Sauerbrey told cheering, chanting supporters at a news conference called to discuss her decision to drop further legal challenges.

Mrs. Sauerbrey offered no new evidence to support her claim that the Nov. 8 election was stolen from her -- a claim she failed to prove before an Anne Arundel County Circuit Court last week.

She also said that she was not blaming Democratic Gov.-elect Parris N. Glendening or "any other individual." For the first time, she even said she wanted to "wish the incoming governor great success."

Nevertheless, she said, "We have been and remain convinced that serious problems occurred on Election Day that flawed the outcome of the election."

She called on the state election board to conduct its own independent investigation of the election, and on the new governor and General Assembly to enact a series of election law reforms to prevent the recurrence of the voting irregularities that she said were uncovered by her post-election investigation.

Mr. Glendening -- who yesterday held a pair of news conferences, announced more appointments to his administration and began to settle in for a week of inaugural festivities -- reacted to Mrs. Sauerbrey's latest remarks as if they were little more than a minor and rapidly fading distraction.

"Unfortunately, there is a strong sense of denial here," he said of the four-term Baltimore County delegate's 10-week effort to overturn the election. "But it is increasingly irrelevant."

He said her good wishes would have meant more to him had they come "two months ago."

Mr. Glendening also acknowledged that his attorneys have recommended that he return to court himself to seek a ruling against the Sauerbrey camp and to argue that its lawsuit was "without substantial justification" and that Mrs. Sauerbrey should required to pay for his and the state's legal expenses.

In order to win such a claim, it must be proven that the offending party moved forward with an allegation it knew to be in "bad faith" or founded on unreliable and unsubstantiated evidence. Bruce L. Marcus, lead attorney in Mr. Glendening's defense at last week's trial, said the legal expenses of the governor-elect have exceeded $250,000, and the state's costs are likely to be at least equal to that.

"It's an option," the governor-elect said of the recommendation, but he added that he had not yet seriously considered it and would not do so until after the inaugural week.

He also played down Mrs. Sauerbrey's call for election law reforms, noting that he had called for a bipartisan legislative review of the state election laws himself just a few days after the November election was over.

Mrs. Sauerbrey's proposed election law reforms mirrored the complaints she has made about the just-concluded election: that the security of voting machines had been compromised, that voter rolls should have been purged and that election law judges often were untrained and their procedures outdated.

She offered six pages of proposed reforms, including new ways to verify voter registration and to assure candidates quicker access to voting records after an election. She also advocated the creation of a new, more independent state board of elections.

Mrs. Sauerbrey said she gave up her plans to appeal last Friday's ruling by Circuit Judge Raymond G. Thieme Jr. to Maryland's Court of Appeals because she became convinced that such an effort, based only on the evidence admitted in the lower court, was unlikely to be successful.

She said she decided against filing a separate lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Baltimore because its timing would, by definition, have to interfere with tomorrow's inauguration of Mr. Glendening.

"Government must proceed in an orderly fashion, and I do not intend to obstruct that process," she said. Later she added: "There comes a time when your head has to rule your heart."

Throughout the news conference, Mrs. Sauerbrey's eyes seemed glassy with tears, yet she laughed when someone asked her if she plans to run for governor again in 1998.

"That's a long way away. All I want to do now, is clean house," she said, noting that she and her husband, Wilmer, have had little time together for the past two years. "My home life has suffered from severe neglect," she said.

As she stepped in front of a bank of 10 television cameras -- perhaps for the last time for awhile -- she was surrounded by her husband, her attorneys, her running mate, Paul H. Rappaport, and by Republican delegates and state senators, many of whom attribute their victories to riding on Mrs. Sauerbrey's coattails. She pledged to stay active in state politics but was no more specific than that.

Her audience of campaign faithful, crammed into a small meeting room at a hotel a block from the State House, booed, hissed and shouted when a reporter asked Mrs. Sauerbrey if she thought her popularity had suffered as a result of her challenge of the election results.

Mrs. Sauerbrey replied that Republicans had made broad gains this time around, and that many Democrats -- including Mr. Glendening -- now seem to be espousing some of the conservative ideas she had championed as a candidate.

"For the first time, we had a strong Republican presence from the top to the bottom [of election tickets]," she said. "This is just the beginning."

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