Rehrmann brings in $50,000 for challenge to Glendening One-time supporter of governor staged event

September 24, 1997|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,SUN STAFF

Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann picked up an estimated $50,000 last evening for her Democratic primary challenge to Gov. Parris N. Glendening at a Timonium fund-raiser staged by a one-time supporter of the governor.

Rehrmann greeted about 60 Baltimore-area business and political leaders at a private cocktail reception thrown by Stephen A. Geppi, the comic book magnate, part-owner of the Orioles and a big-money contributor to Glendening.

Geppi, who is also publisher of Baltimore Magazine, did not attend the event last night because of illness. He was unavailable for comment.

But Rehrmann, 52, of Bel Air said that Geppi is supporting her over Glendening and that he volunteered his plush suite of offices at Diamond Comic Distributors Inc. for the event.

"Knowing my record as a financial manager, he came to me and asked, 'How can I help?' " she said.

In the 1994 campaign, Geppi supported Glendening but also gave money to Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey, the likely Republican nominee next year.

Last night, guests were asked for a $1,000 contribution, but checks for the stated minimum of $500 a person were being accepted, campaign officials said. The event was the first in a series of fund-raisers planned for the next month, they said.

"We're starting to feel the support and excitement growing," Rehrmann said.

Among those in attendance were Joseph A. De Francis, the majority owner of Pimlico and Laurel race courses; Baltimore City Council President Lawrence A. Bell III, who has been courted by Glendening; and George G. Balog, Baltimore's director of public works.

Bell said that he was "keeping an open mind" about the Democratic primary next September and that he was not prepared to endorse either Glendening or Rehrmann at this point.

"It's early in the process," he said. "You have to look at the people with the strongest chance in the election and look at the people with broad appeal.

"I'm a pragmatist."

In recent weeks, Rehrmann has stepped up the pace of her campaign and sharpened her criticism of Glendening.

Some of the steam picked up by the campaign has been the result of her public backing by Larry S. Gibson, Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's chief political adviser.

Gibson, quite visible at the fund-raiser, is well known for his ability to turn out the vote in Baltimore and has close ties to Prince George's County Executive Wayne K. Curry, who presides over a jurisdiction key to winning the state.

"There are a lot of business folks out there, staunch Democrats, who want a Democratic governor, but don't believe Parris Glendening can beat Ellen Sauerbrey," Gibson said. "That is being articulated to me from Baltimore business leaders more than anything else."

They are concerned, he said, about "Baltimore's clout in the General Assembly" after the next redistricting, which will follow the 2000 Census, and about Sauerbrey's "extremist" politics.

"They don't want a Newt Gingrich-type of Republican as governor of Maryland," said Gibson, who was a big supporter of Glendening in 1994.

In the last election, Geppi contributed $4,000 to Glendening, and Diamond Comic Distributors gave another $4,000. He gave $1,000 to Sauerbrey, who narrowly lost to Glendening.

Pub Date: 9/24/97

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