Presidential hopeful Gramm lines up Md. support

March 31, 1995|By Marina Sarris | Marina Sarris,Sun Staff Writer

With Ellen R. Sauerbrey and other prominent Maryland Republicans at his side, U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas vowed yesterday to sweep the state in the 1996 GOP presidential primary.

"Maryland is an important state -- it's an early primary state," he told more than 50 supporters at the State House in Annapolis.

"I think if I win convincingly in the primary, it would be an early indication that I could beat Bill Clinton," he said.

Mr. Gramm stressed his ties to Maryland -- he has a vacation home south of Cambridge -- and the commitments he already has received from GOP officials across the state.

Half of the 56 Republican members of the General Assembly have agreed to be vice or co-chairmen of the Gramm campaign here. That is significant support considering that Maryland's March 5 primary is a year away and some potential candidates have not jumped into the race yet.

His Maryland campaign chairwoman is Mrs. Sauerbrey, a fellow conservative who came within 6,000 votes of becoming governor of the predominantly Democratic state last fall.

Mr. Gramm warmed up the enthusiastic crowd with a Clinton joke. Then he launched into traditional conservative themes of lowering taxes, reducing government spending, balancing the federal budget and cutting welfare.

"I'm running for president because as a young congressman, I was a foot soldier in the Reagan revolution, and as president I want to finish the revolution," said Mr. Gramm, 52, a former Democrat.

"I want to grab violent criminals by the throat and not let them go to get a better grip," he said. "I'm going to ask able-bodied men and women who are riding in the welfare wagon to get out of the wagon and help the rest of us pull."

Mrs. Sauerbrey, the former House of Delegates minority leader from Baltimore County, highlighted Mr. Gramm's conservatism and noted a contrast with former President George Bush.

"If the 1992 presidential race is any indication, voters are not looking for a lukewarm, 'conservative-when-convenient' approach," she said.

She is supporting Mr. Gramm despite the candidacy of Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, who helped her raise money for her court challenge of the November election.

When asked why she preferred Mr. Gramm, Mrs. Sauerbrey said she admired his "willingness to fight for principle. He does not equivocate. He does not have his finger to the wind."

"He has spent a lot of time in Maryland," she continued. "He has been willing to put an effort into this state that I haven't seen a presidential candidate put into a small state."

Still, a poll this month showed that Mr. Dole was the leading choice of Maryland Republicans, with 42 percent of the likely primary vote. Mr. Gramm captured 22 percent, and 17 percent were undecided. The margin of error was plus or minus 6.9 percentage points.

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