Sauerbrey bid for unified GOP hits resistance Rejected: Two prominent Howard County Republicans have rebuffed overtures from gubernatorial candidate Ellen R. Sauerbrey aimed at building party unity.

The Political Game

July 14, 1998|By Craig Timberg | Craig Timberg,SUN STAFF

TRY AS she might, Ellen R. Sauerbrey is having no end of headaches getting the small-but-growing Republican Party in order for November. Blame it on Howard County.

First, Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker shuns overtures to join her ticket -- first as running mate, then as a comptroller candidate -- choosing instead to keep up a campaign for governor that even longtime supporters consider quixotic.

Now, Paul H. Rappaport -- the former Howard police chief who Sauerbrey put on the political map as her 1994 running mate -- is shunning her efforts to put together a full ticket for the September primary election, when Rappaport is running for Maryland attorney general.

The dream team, as Sauerbrey partisans had envisioned it in recent days, was Sauerbrey- Bennett-Steele-Rappaport.

Sauerbrey would have headed the ticket along with her lieutenant governor candidate, former U.S. Attorney Richard D. Bennett. Prince George's County GOP Chairman Michael Steele -- her point man in reaching out to African-Americans -- would run for comptroller. And Rappaport, still liked by conservative grass-roots supporters, would run for attorney general.

The three men, not coincidentally, were Sauerbrey's finalists for running mate before she picked Bennett last month.

A ticket with all three might have heightened her stature as a party builder and given her a head start on the general election. Remember, Republicans are still outnumbered by 2-to-1 in Maryland.

But Rappaport won't play.

"I won't endorse anyone during the primary," he says, "because I don't think it's right."

The Republican ticket, he says, should be decided by primary voters, not by candidates banding together. He was eager to be on her ticket as her running mate again -- an endorsement if there ever was one.

In that case, he explains, he would have endorsed Sauerbrey's ticket -- because he would have been on it.

"I endorse Paul Rappaport as attorney general," he says. "If I was running as [Sauerbrey's] running mate, I'd support Paul Rappaport as lieutenant governor."

But many Republicans think the issue is not principle but pique. After four years of working on behalf of Sauerbrey, he felt betrayed when she chose Bennett.

"There were hundreds of thousands of Republicans in the state who were not picked for lieutenant governor who are supporting Ellen Sauerbrey -- including me," says Del. John S. Morgan, a Laurel Republican also seriously considered for running mate. "He should get back on the team."

Steele, who handled Sauerbrey's choice of a running mate with a good deal of class, picks up her endorsement today in his run for comptroller.

It's an uphill fight, considering that William Donald Schaefer is likely to be the Democratic nominee. But Sauerbrey's support immediately lifts Steele above a handful of other Republican challengers, giving him access to an organization and fund-raising contacts that would take years to build.

Don't be surprised if Steele becomes an even-more-visible ambassador in Sauerbrey's efforts to court black voters -- who represent nearly one out of four Maryland voters.

"It's win-win," he says, "both sides."

Marching to the beat of new Rehrmann jingle

It may not be "Hail to the Chief," but Eileen M. Rehrmann's new jingle is getting stuck in the brain cavities of radio listeners all over the state. Some might soon resort to trephination -- the ancient art of skull drilling -- to get it out.

The jingle, set to marching music, goes like this:

Vote for Eileen Rehrmann 'cause you deserve the best.

Vote for Eileen Rehrmann, don't settle for less.

Vote for Eileen Rehrmann, we're leaving Parris in the dust.

Vote for Eileen Rehrmann, it's a matter of trust.

You get the idea.

To cap it off, the grand marshal of the Rehrmann parade, Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, chimes in at the end, "I urge you to vote for Eileen Rehrmann for governor."

Polls are showing Rehrmann surging ahead among fans of John Philip Sousa.

Pub Date: 7/14/98

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