Gary comment sets off intraparty strife

December 04, 1996|By Scott Wilson | Scott Wilson,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County Executive John G. Gary has talked his way into trouble with the state's conservative Republicans.

On Monday, state GOP standard bearer Ellen R. Sauerbrey traveled to Annapolis for a two-hour meeting with Gary in his Arundel Center office. The appointment was the same day that Gary's comment appeared in the morning paper that as a fTC Republican in the House of Delegates when Sauerbrey was minority leader, he "spent most of [his] time keeping Ellen from going over the deep end."

Sauerbrey's visit, scheduled last month, was not only to seek support from Anne Arundel's Republican leader for her 1998 governor's race, but also to head off an increasing intraparty argument that threatens Republican unity.

"The most important thing discussed was the fact that Republicans believe we have a unique opportunity in 1998 to capture the governor's seat," said Richard E. Hug, co-chairman of Sauerbrey's finance committee, who attended the meeting. It may seem early for personal lobbying from Sauerbrey, who narrowly lost the 1994 governor's race and has been busy heading off potential primary opposition in recent weeks.

But Gary's comments, reported in The Sun, and the re-entry of former House Republican leader Robert R. Neall in state politics may have hastened her campaign timetable.

Gary's recent comments enraged members of the party's vocal conservative wing, especially in Anne Arundel where the Republican Central Committee is poised to nominate Neall to a state Senate seat vacant since John A. Cade's death last month.

Neall, a former Anne Arundel county executive, is a prominent Annapolis lobbyist and business community favorite.

Conservatives oppose Neall's candidacy, which they associate with an old-guard axis comprising Gary, Cade, Neall and other centrist Republicans who have worked with the majority Democratic Party to win capital projects and political points in the past.

While Republicans have made gains in recent years, both the state Senate and House of Delegates still run more than 2-1 in the Democrats' favor.

At the core of the party feud is whether moderate, fiscal-first Republicans such as Neall and Gary will lead the GOP into the 1998 elections. Or whether brash, young followers of Sauerbrey, who view Gary, Neall and Cade as Democratic collaborators, will remake the party into a confrontational, ideology-driven front.

The Central Committee is expected to select Neall on Saturday over Del. Robert C. Baldwin, the candidate favored by party conservatives.

Pub Date: 12/04/96

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