Moving to prevent a primary challenge, Republican standard-bearer Ellen R. Sauerbrey reached out to party moderates yesterday by naming Anne Arundel County Executive John G. Gary co-chairman of her 1998 gubernatorial campaign.
"Anne Arundel is one of the three most important counties, John is one of our most important officials, and he knows what it takes to win," said Sauerbrey, who narrowly lost the 1994 governor's race to Parris N. Glendening.
The announcement came six weeks after Gary, a Republican associated with the party's fiscally minded moderate wing, angered party conservatives by saying he "spent most of [his] time keeping Ellen from going over the deep end" while serving with Sauerbrey in the House of Delegates.
Gary said yesterday he expected his main contribution to the campaign to be as a voice for moderation, a quality she has often been criticized for lacking.
"We're going to look very hard at getting a balanced ticket so it's not perceived as being an extreme right-wing campaign," Gary HTC said.
"I think she's going to be open to suggestions on that, and I think I will play that role, that voice," he said.
Gary's decision to serve the Sauerbrey campaign as a "senior adviser" was reached after a meeting last month and a phone call Jan. 14. It also seems to diminish prospects that state Sen. Robert R. Neall, a close friend and political ally of Gary, will run for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.
Last month, Neall was appointed to the seat left vacant by Sen. John A. Cade's death, returning from the private sector over fierce opposition from a populist wing of the Republican Party that supports Sauerbrey. That faction believes Neall and Gary worked too closely with State House Democrats, sacrificing conservative principles for fiscal pragmatism in doing so.
Gary vigorously defended Neall's record, uttering his remarks about Sauerbrey in doing so. But yesterday, Gary chose party unity over personal ties.
"Clearly, there is a huge majority of Republicans who believe she deserves a second chance at running for governor," Gary said.
Neall said neither Gary nor Sauerbrey discussed their alliance with him, but he dismissed its significance.
"I don't think it's a sign of anything," Neall said. "It didn't have anything to do with me. Whoever is reading the tea leaves better leave me out of it."
Pub Date: 1/22/97