Neall and Baldwin apply for Cade's Senate seat County GOP panel to choose on Saturday

December 03, 1996|By Scott Wilson | Scott Wilson,SUN STAFF

Two candidates, former County Executive Robert R. Neall and Del. Robert C. Baldwin, applied by yesterday's deadline to fill the state Senate seat left vacant by Republican John A. Cade's death last month.

Lobbying within local GOP ranks -- especially among moderates who view Neall as the heir to Cade's brand of pragmatic, fiscal-first politics -- and Neall's long shadow kept the candidate pool smaller than expected.

As a result, the two-man race for the 33rd District seat resembles a small-scale political campaign that will end Saturday, when the county's Republican Central Committee will nominate Cade's successor. The governor must then confirm the nomination within 15 days.

"I've received letters of endorsement from many voters who live in District 33," said Helen Fister, who chairs the 13-member committee.

"I've also received 'anybody but' [Neall] letters, and those have been from outside the district and county. They don't mean as much."

After a public hearing Thursday night, the committee will vote privately on a candidate who will serve the last two years of Cade's term. That person is expected to run for re-election in 1998 with the advantage of incumbency.

But party conservatives fear that Neall, who left public life two years ago to open an Annapolis lobbying firm, may be angling for the seat as a foothold for the 1998 gubernatorial race. Many conservative Republicans see Neall as a threat to their candidate, Ellen R. Sauerbrey, who narrowly lost the governor's race two years ago.

Neall, a former House Republican leader, has close ties to the Maryland Republican Party. Campaign finance records show that has given more than $16,250 to the party since 1994 from his standing campaign committee.

Since announcing his candidacy, he has received public support from much of Anne Arundel's elected Republican leadership, including County Executive John G. Gary. Del. Phillip D. Bissett, the Edgewater Republican who chairs Anne Arundel's House delegation, sent a letter to Central Committee members yesterday endorsing Neall's candidacy.

Meanwhile, Baldwin's candidacy has been pushed by a small group of conservatives who in letters have compared Neall to former Gov. Spiro T. Agnew as a consummate insider.

"Bob Baldwin's not a careerist who spent his entire life at the public trough," said Arthur Downs, a Republican activist from Severna Park. "There are too many conflicts of interest with Mr. Neall. We need to return to the citizen legislator, not the professional politician."

Baldwin, 62, is secretary-treasurer of Reliable Contracting in Crownsville and a first-term state delegate. The anti-Neall lobbying has been conducted through letter-writing campaigns and phone calls -- all without Sauerbrey's public support. She has said the appointment should be left to the Central Committee.

Bissett said yesterday that, in response to lobbying by conservatives, "more mainstream groups will start taking a public approach to this, not only elected Republicans but also business groups."

He characterized Neall's conservative opposition as "outsiders looking in, people who haven't done any of the party's work. I would call them registered Republicans. But these are all new names to me."

Neall, 48, surprised the political community by announcing that he would seek Cade's vacant seat. He would have to cut his Annapolis consulting business in half -- possibly abandoning such clients as the Maryland Chamber of Commerce -- to take a post that pays $29,800 a year.

A former vice president of external affairs for Johns Hopkins Hospital, Neall said he has been talking with his former employer about a job. But when Neall last worked for the hospital in the late 1980s he was a private citizen legally able to lobby the General Assembly as part of his job. As a senator, he could not.

"That [same position] is clearly not in the cards," Neall said. "I'm certainly not ruling out a job with Johns Hopkins."

Pub Date: 12/03/96

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