State GOPs make most of convention Opportunity: A few of the more ambitious Republican delegates from Maryland attending the convention in San Diego see it as time to work on their political careers.

Campaign 1996

Republican Convention

August 14, 1996|By Frank Langfitt | Frank Langfitt,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

SAN DIEGO -- With no official duties until last evening's convention session, most of the Maryland delegation spent the day at play -- getting a tan, sightseeing on Coronado Island or fishing in the Pacific.

A few of the more ambitious members, though, went to work -- on their political careers.

Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. of Baltimore County attended a party for the chairman of the House Commerce Committee, which he might like to join. The committee handles a variety of issues affecting businesses, which, in turn, contribute generously to members' campaigns.

Meanwhile, Ellen R. Sauerbrey continued to seek prominent Republicans from other states who might help her campaign or raise money if she runs for governor in 1998. Sauerbrey said she has already spoken with former Vice President Dan Quayle and Govs. Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania and George W. Bush of Texas about helping her raise campaign money.

"It's about fund-raising. It's about networking," Sauerbrey said of her efforts at the Republican National Convention this week. "It's about being able to call Tom Ridge at an appropriate time and remind him he said he'd come in and do an event for me."

With the nation's most powerful and influential Republicans in town, San Diego is a bit like a job fair for candidates eyeing higher office. Over gourmet food and drinks surrounded by palm trees and blue water, delegates can schmooze the party's luminaries in a relaxed atmosphere without seeming pushy.

Ehrlich was in top form yesterday at a tribute for Commerce Committee Chairman Thomas J. Bliley Jr., a Virginia representative, aboard the Berkeley, a ferryboat-turned-maritime-museum in San Diego Bay. Ehrlich, who occasionally plays tennis with Bliley, put his arm around the chairman and kidded him about his recent losing streak.

Every time Ehrlich beats Bliley, the freshman congressman joked, "all my bills are dead in Commerce."

The Commerce Committee deals with such areas as telecommunications and the environment. Ehrlich, who currently sits on the banking committee, says he is interested in the panel because it handles legislation that affects businesses in his district, ranging from trash haulers to building contractors.

But he also acknowledges that a seat on the committee could help him if he runs for higher office. Ehrlich, viewed as a fast-rising star in the state Republican Party, is talked of in Maryland political circles as a possible candidate for the governor's office or U.S. Senate.

But to be competitive in a statewide race, he would have to raise far more than the $750,000 to $950,000 that he plans to bring in for his congressional contest this fall against Democratic challenger Connie Galiazzo DeJuliis.

"It certainly gives you a much better foundation for fund-raising in the future," Ehrlich said.

For Sauerbrey, the connections she makes here in San Diego could be critical. Without a public office -- she gave up her state legislative seat to run for governor -- it is not easy to raise money or stay in the public eye. In 1994, she lost her race for governor by 5,999 votes after being heavily outspent by the successful Democratic candidate, Parris N. Glendening.

"I went into that election thinking that if you had a million dollars you could buy enough positive television to put across the essence of who you were," Sauerbrey said.

But, she added, she did not realize how much money she would need to counteract negative advertisements by her opponent. Of the delegates considering a race for statewide office, former federal prosecutor Richard D. Bennett seemed to be taking the most relaxed approach. Bennett, who ran unsuccessfully for state Attorney General in 1994, said he's keeping an eye out for Bush, the Texas governor, whom he sees as a potential source of help in a future campaign.

On his way out of the hotel yesterday, in jogging shorts and a sports shirt, Bennett said the only running he would be doing this week would be on a footpath along San Diego Bay.

Pub Date: 8/14/96

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