Md. gets its say at polls today GOP officials predict percent turnout for presidential primary

Clinton vs. LaRouche

32 trying to succeed Mfume

7 incumbents running in other races

March 05, 1996|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF Sun staff writers John Rivera and William F. Zorzi Jr. contributed to this article.

Now it's Maryland's turn.

After a month of fickle primary and caucus voting in far-flung states, voters in Maryland go to the polls today to help resolve the question of which Republican presidential candidate will take on President Clinton in November. The state also holds the distinction of being is the first in the nation this year to hold congressional primaries. Quiet contests are expected in all of the eight congressional districts except the 7th, where 32 candidates are battling to succeed former Rep. Kweisi Mfume.

The weather forecast calls for a windy and possibly wet, but warm day. Light rain is likely in the afternoon with temperatures around 60 degrees. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Elsewhere today, seven other states hold Republican presidential primaries: Georgia, Colorado and five New England states. In each of the states, Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole leads the polls.

GOP officials in Maryland expect only one third of the 731,184 registered Republicans to vote today. Turnout probably will be lower among the state's 1,441,976 registered Democrats; only the fringe candidate Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr. opposes Mr. Clinton in the first Democratic presidential primary in Maryland not seriously contested in 36 years.

"I don't think the average citizen out there is that tuned in to the primary," said Joyce Lyons Terhes, chairwoman of the Maryland Republican Party.

Edward Weissman, a political science professor at Washington College in Kent County, said the field of Republicans running for president has failed to inspire most voters. Nine candidates are on the ballot, including one who is no longer running. Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas, despite the backing of many Maryland elected officials, dropped out of the race after his dismal showing in the Iowa caucuses.

Mr. Dole apparently leads the pack of eight, based on a statewide poll that put his support at 32 percent. Conservative commentator Patrick J. Buchanan followed with 20 percent.

The poll was taken before Mr. Dole won Saturday's South Carolina primary. Some observers said his lopsided victory not only boosted his prospects in Maryland, but also signaled the start of Mr. Dole's his inevitable march to the nomination.

Emphasizing his experience and ability to work with Congress, Mr. Dole campaigned Sunday in Maryland. Although candidates' sharp, personal attacks against one other marred the earlier primaries, Mr. Dole wooed his Maryland backers with stories about his modest beginnings in Kansas and his Midwestern values of honesty and integrity.

Mr. Buchanan was the other Republican candidate to campaign in the state. At a news conference Saturday in Baltimore, he pronounced himself the only true conservative running who could can unseat Mr. Clinton. in the general election.

Alan L. Keyes, a former radio talk-show host and State Department official who lives in Montgomery County, had planned to campaign in Maryland. But yesterday he canceled three appearances and remained in Georgia after being forcibly removed the night before from the scene of a presidential debate restricted to the top four candidates.

The Atlanta TV station sponsoring the debate had not invited Mr. Keyes. When he tried to enter the station, he was handcuffed and taken away by police officers, who released him 20 minutes later and filed no charges.

Mr. Keyes has been on a hunger strike since Thursday, protesting his exclusion from an earlier debate in South Carolina. His controversial behavior landed him on several national news shows yesterday morning.

"I did speak with him briefly this morning, and he's in high spirits," his Maryland campaign director, Terry Turner, said yesterday. "Last I heard he was still on his fast."

The other Republican hopefuls on the ballot are former Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander, publishing magnate Malcolm S. "Steve" Steve Forbes, Indiana Sen. Richard G. Lugar, Rep. Robert K. Dornan of California, and Illinois industrialist Maurice "Morry" Morry Taylor.

Mr. Alexander, who also was President Bush's education secretary, has portrayed himself as the folksy, political outsider, despite years of government service. Mr. Forbes has made his single-rate income tax of 17 percent the centerpiece of his campaign.

When Republican voters enter the polling booth, they can choose one presidential candidate as well as three national convention delegates in each congressional district. The delegates, regardless of which candidate they're aligned with, are committed to support the candidate with the most votes in their particular district -- at least on the first two ballots at the national convention in August.

Thirty-two Republican delegates are at stake today -- three in each of the eight congressional districts, and eight at-large committed to the candidate with the most votes statewide. To be nominated, a candidate needs 996 delegates, one more than half the delegates nationwide.

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