Horse track proposal criticized Glendening rivals Rehrmann, Sauerbrey oppose aid suggestion

July 31, 1998|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF

Gov. Parris N. Glendening came under heavy criticism from both political flanks yesterday, a day after he floated the notion that the state consider using tax dollars to help build a new horse track in Maryland.

Two of his opponents for re-election, Democrat Eileen M. Rehrmann and Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey, accused

Glendening of misplaced priorities, saying state funds should be used to improve education, not construct racetracks.

"We could use that money to build schools," Rehrmann said. "The governor's priorities are not right."

Added Sauerbrey: "Here's a man that says he doesn't want to promote gambling in the state, yet he proposes a new gambling facility."

Rehrmann, the two-term Harford County executive, for the first time also criticized Glendening for committing more than $270 million in state funds to help pay for football stadiums in Baltimore and Prince George's County.

But the attack marked something of a reversal for Rehrmann, who as a member of the House of Delegates in 1987 voted for the landmark legislation that gave the state authority to build publicly financed football and baseball stadiums in downtown Baltimore.

The criticism of Glendening came in response to comments he made Wednesday at a meeting with editorial writers and a reporter from The Sun, where he said that the state should consider joining a "public-private partnership" to construct a state-of-the-art horse track. Such a facility would cost about $120 million, according to industry officials.

As he did Wednesday, Glendening emphasized yesterday that he had no firm proposal in mind. He said his comments were part of his effort to prod the racing industry to consider ways of rejuvenating the sport in Maryland without bringing in slot machines.

Glendening flatly opposes slot machines, while Rehrmann has made the legalization of slots at Maryland horse tracks a campaign priority.

"The governor would like people to start a reasonable discussion about reasonable ways that Maryland can help an industry that's part of its cultural identity," said Peter S. Hamm, a Glendening campaign spokesman. "Eileen Rehrmann has not been a part of those reasonable conversations, because she is a a die-hard believer in slot machines and apparently very little else."

Rehrmann repeated her call for slots yesterday, saying the millions of dollars spent by Marylanders in slot machines in surrounding states should be kept here. That money, she said, could be used to rebuild state racetracks and for education.

Sauerbrey has said she would consider legalizing the devices to help the racing industry.

Yesterday, Rehrmann had the most pointed attack on Glendening's racetrack comments. Standing outside the soon-to-open Ravens stadium, she blasted the governor for discussing a new track, which she labelled "Glendening Downs."

Rehrmann went on to lump the governor's comments about a new racetrack with the state's spending on the two football stadiums.

"When I'm elected we won't spend taxpayer money on these boondoggles," she said in a press release. "No race tracks, no stadiums, no exceptions," she said, playing on Glendening's campaign slogan against slot machines and casino gambling.

Rehrmann sidestepped questions about her apparent change of heart on the stadium issue since her 1987 vote in favor of a Camden Yards complex with separate baseball and football stadiums.

The football stadium issue resurfaced in 1996, when Glendening successfully pushed the General Assembly to approve additional funding needed for a home for the Baltimore Ravens, as well as for money to help build a stadium for the Washington Redskins in Prince George's County.

Rehrmann, who has been Harford County executive since leaving the legislature in 1990, acknowledged yesterday that she had not come out against the football stadiums package two years ago, but said that the deal between the owner of the Ravens and the state was too generous.

Glendening's comments about a new racetrack have also been met skeptically by a key legislator and the principal owner of the state's two leading thoroughbred tracks, both of whom said the General Assembly would be unlikely to support such an idea.

But the state racing industry has enjoyed strong support in the General Assembly for many years. Over the past two years, the legislature has approved sending $18 million to the industry.

Most of that has been used to boost race purses to keep Maryland's competitive with those in surrounding states.

Pub Date: 7/31/98

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