Sauerbrey pledges to fight blight, crime in neighborhoods Republican candidate speaks at city rowhouse where she once lived

June 18, 1998|By Craig Timberg | Craig Timberg,SUN STAFF

Standing before a boarded-up Baltimore rowhouse that was once her home, Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey pledged yesterday that as governor she would bring better schools, tougher crime-fighting and a New York City-style resurgence to blighted neighborhoods.

The occasion was the announcement of her running mate, former U.S. Attorney Richard D. Bennett, a moderate who in 1994 chastised Sauerbrey for "objectionable" campaign rhetoric but eagerly clasped hands with her before the cameras yesterday.

"I share Ellen Sauerbrey's vision for what Maryland could be," he said, "a place where every child can receive a decent education, where families thrive in safe neighborhoods and where citizens can have confidence in the integrity of their elected leaders."

The event had the feel of a campaign in full swing, though the Sept. 15 primary election is three months away. Sauerbrey is being challenged for the GOP nomination by Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker.

Speaking into a microphone at a makeshift podium, Sauerbrey told of "struggling to become middle class" with a steel-worker father and a mother who walked her to safe schools.

She promised to return vitality to the neighborhood with policies modeled on New York City's Republican Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who endorsed Sauerbrey on Monday and helped her raise tens of thousands of dollars.

"Today, this is a neighborhood that is still filled with people just like my parents, people that are trying to build a better life for themselves and their families," said Sauerbrey, 60, who moved away from the rowhouse at 1701 E. 28th St. near Clifton Park more than 50 years ago.

"It breaks my heart to be back in this neighborhood," she added. "Mothers are afraid to send their kids out on the streets because the streets are no longer safe in this community."

She said Bennett would focus on public safety issues, a role filled in 1994 by her running mate that year, former Howard County Police Chief Paul H. Rappaport. Sauerbrey decided this week to turn to Bennett, 50, for her 1998 ticket.

Yesterday, the day after learning of Sauerbrey's decision, Rappaport declined to comment on the selection.

He also declined to say whether he still supports Sauerbrey. "At this point, I'm going to sit back and take a breather and see what I'm going to do," he said.

Most party leaders are pleased with the selection of Bennett, who they say has a stronger resume of professional and campaign experience than Rappaport.

Besides being U.S. attorney, Bennett ran unsuccessfully for Maryland attorney general in 1994, and has been lead counsel to Indiana Rep. Dan Burton's committee investigating the use of foreign money in President Clinton's 1996 campaign.

Bennett represents the moderate wing of the Republican party, supporting abortion rights and gun control. He was a longtime ally of former Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, who lost to Sauerbrey in a bitter GOP primary in 1994.

A month before that election, Bennett wrote to Sauerbrey defending Bentley and her running mate, Howard A. Denis, a former GOP state senator from Montgomery County.

"I believe you should refrain from inaccurate and misleading attacks upon Helen Bentley and Howard Denis," Bennett wrote.

Later in the letter -- copies of which he sent to 15 GOP leaders across the state -- Bennett added, "If Howard Denis does not satisfy your litmus test on being a 'true' Republican, then perhaps neither do I."

Yesterday, Sauerbrey and Bennett brushed aside past differences. He said he had "known and admired Ellen Sauerbrey since the early '70s" and credited her 1994 campaign for pushing Gov. Parris N. Glendening and the General Assembly to pass an income tax cut.

Some neighborhood residents took a few minutes to meet Sauerbrey and Bennett and listen to their remarks.

"I love what she said," said Therman "Charles" Hamlin, 67. "And just on that one time hearing her, I would vote for her."

Kareem Samuel, 9, a fourth-grader who said he walks to Cecil Elementary every day, rode over on his bicycle. He studied the candidates closely. "You don't see people like them in my neighborhood," he said.

His friend, Joey Woodson, 14, quickly lost interest and pedaled away. "What are they doing here?" he said. "I hope they're going to get rid of the drug dealers, or else I don't know why they're here."

Pub Date: 6/18/98

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