Alexander's long-shot campaign visits Md. Presidential hopeful's $1,000-a-person event is second in state

Campaign 1996

November 02, 1995|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,SUN STAFF

Republican presidential hopeful Lamar Alexander left his red-plaid flannel shirt back in Tennessee and came to Baltimore in a blue suit yesterday for his second fund-raising foray into Maryland this year.

Mr. Alexander, 55, the former Tennessee governor and U.S. education secretary, flew into the city last evening for a $1,000-a-head fund-raiser at a North Baltimore home -- one of 40 fund-raisers the campaign has scheduled in the next six weeks.

Although the $12 million he has raised is far short of the $20 million goal the campaign set for 1995, he said yesterday that he is confident he will meet that goal by the New Hampshire primary Feb. 20.

In the meantime, unless the Alexander campaign catches fire, the question of working toward a win in Maryland's primary March 5 will be moot.

"What I'm doing is focusing our resources -- which include our time and money -- on the three stepping stones to the Republican nomination: the Florida convention, the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary," Mr. Alexander said in an interview before the fund-raiser.

"Unless a candidate does very well in those he won't be a competitor in the Maryland primary," he said.

Mr. Alexander would not say he has conceded the state, but he clearly is putting most of his attention elsewhere. In recent weeks, however, the campaign has put together a skeleton organization in Maryland, he noted.

Texas Sen. Phil Gramm got the early jump with Maryland party activists, who fell in line behind him largely through the efforts of Ellen R. Sauerbrey, the GOP's standard-bearer in last year's gubernatorial election, and her grass-roots organization.

Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole of Kansas has a smaller organization in Maryland, but remains the clear front-runner in polls both in the state and nationally.

In a poll last month of likely GOP voters in Maryland by Mason-Dixon Political Media Research, Mr. Alexander was running a distant fourth, with 3 percent of Republicans saying they would vote for him. He trailed Mr. Dole, Mr. Gramm and former commentator Pat Buchanan.

His 3 percent showing in the survey -- which did not consider the possible candidacy of retired Gen. Colin Powell -- was unchanged from a March poll.

Moreover, 45 percent of the respondents did not recognize Mr. Alexander's name.

"The way you become well known is doing well in Florida, Iowa and New Hampshire," he said yesterday.

More than 40 supporters gathered for dinner with Mr. Alexander at the Poplar Hill home of Richard C. Riggs Jr., president and chief executive officer of Barton-Cotton Inc. and president of the Maryland Club.

The candidate's visit "demonstrates that he can raise money here," said Gregory H. Barnhill, a managing director of Alex. Brown Inc., who helped organize the event.

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