Opponents attack governor on crime, education record Ocean City convention is forum for first debate

July 01, 1998|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF

OCEAN CITY -- In the first campaign debate of this year's race for governor, some of Gov. Parris N. Glendening's opponents took shots yesterday at his record on crime, education and overall leadership.

In a generally polite forum before several hundred people gathered for the Maryland Municipal League's annual convention, Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey and Democrat Eileen Rehrmann took turns criticizing Glendening.

Sauerbrey, who challenged Glendening in 1994 and remains the favorite to capture the Republican nomination this year, mentioned the governor's shift away from supporting a major new highway in Montgomery County and his backing of taxpayer expenditures for professional sports stadiums.

"I'm committed to schools, not stadiums," Sauerbrey said.

Rehrmann, meanwhile, chastised Glendening for a variety of decisions, saying, for example, he should have done more to lead the effort to deregulate Maryland's electric utilities.

"We know this train is coming down the track, yet the governor has not provided the leadership," said Rehrmann, the two-term Harford County executive.

Glendening did not respond to any of the comments made about his four-year term, sticking instead to a recitation of his accomplishments -- focusing in particular on his efforts to reinvigorate the state's older cities and towns and on Maryland's declining crime rate.

Afterward, he shrugged off the criticisms.

"There were no real issues raised," Glendening said. "There was nothing really suggested that we need to change. The state is doing well."

The format for yesterday's forum did not allow for back-and-forth exchanges between candidates. And the answers were all but guaranteed to be scripted as the municipal league had shared the questions with the candidates weeks in advance.

Predictably, all seven of the candidates pledged to work closely with municipal leaders, and several, including Sauerbrey and Glendening, spoke positively about increasing state financial assistance for local crime-fighting efforts.

Democrat Raymond F. Schoenke Jr. also pledged to increase aid to police and highlighted his management experience running a large insurance brokerage in Montgomery County.

Another Democrat, physician Terry McGuire of Prince George's County, voiced strong support for mandating collective bargaining for local government employees.

A fifth Democrat, Lawrence Freeman, who is an associate of extremist politician Lyndon LaRouche, focused on the state's economy, which he said was unhealthy.

Sauerbrey's only challenger in the Republican primary, Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker, touted his experience managing that county's affairs and vowed to improve the state education system if elected.

Sauerbrey suggested after the 90-minute forum that she would be more aggressive in other settings.

"I didn't come here today to criticize the governor," Sauerbrey said. "I don't think this was the right forum to be in any other mode but to tell the folks the positions they asked us about."

Pub Date: 7/01/98

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