Rivals say Sauerbrey flip-flops on issues GOP candidate changes her views on arts funding

August 15, 1998|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Craig Timberg contributed to this article.

Four years ago, Republican gubernatorial candidate Ellen R. Sauerbrey proposed cuts in what she said were nonessential state grants to arts organizations to help pay for the major income tax cut she was pushing.

Now in her second run for the State House, Sauerbrey has written to Maryland arts groups promising to "make every effort" to significantly increase state funding for their groups if she is elected in November.

The reversal on arts funding is more evidence of Sauerbrey's attempt to recast herself politically, away from her conservatism of 1994 and toward the Maryland mainstream, say backers of Gov. Parris N. Glendening, her likely opponent in the November general election.

Her evolution on issues from abortion and gun control to education funding and arts funding raises doubts, they contend, about her principles and trustworthiness.

For Republicans, the effort to defeat Glendening in the fall may revolve largely around their oft-repeated assertion that the governor can't be trusted -- either on policy or matters of ethical integrity.

Now, some Democrats are hoping they have found their own trust issue to throw back at Sauerbrey.

"I have never seen such an extraordinary case of a human being trying to remake herself," Peter S. Hamm, Glendening's campaign spokesman, said yesterday. "The more she reinvents herself, the more people will realize how solid this governor's record is at keeping his word."

Refocused campaign

The Sauerbrey camp dismisses such comments, suggesting that she has refocused her campaign from her main issue of 1994 -- tax cuts -- and onto education and crime.

"Voters' concerns change from year to year," said Jim Dornan, the Sauerbrey campaign spokesman. "And Ellen is addressing those concerns."

Sauerbrey, who is against abortion and gun control in a state in which the majority have the opposite views, has said she would not waste "political capital" by trying to change Maryland law on either topic.

A longtime opponent of gambling and the state lottery, Sauerbrey has said she would consider legalizing slot machines at Maryland horse tracks to help the racing industry.

On fiscal issues, she has de-emphasized talk of cutting the state budget -- although she does criticize Glendening for supporting state spending on stadiums.

She talks instead about the need to hire 1,001 teachers, build more schools, increase drug-treatment programs -- while cutting the income tax 14 percent beyond what Glendening and the Democratic-controlled General Assembly have done.

This week, Sauerbrey startled some conservative supporters when she said she would not undo Glendening's 1996 executive order granting collective bargaining rights to about 40,000 state workers -- after calling for a special session of the legislature to overturn it two years ago.

Sauerbrey said she had concluded that undoing the order would xTC prompt expensive, time-consuming litigation against the state.

'It's what you believe'

In an interview, Glendening accused Sauerbrey of pandering on collective bargaining and other issues.

"It's what you believe, it's right or wrong," Glendening said, referring to Sauerbrey's modified positions. "You don't change your views because you go to consultants' school."

Sauerbrey's Republican primary opponent, Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker, accused her of "waffling."

"I'd like for the real Ellen Sauerbrey to stand up," Ecker said. "It's like buying a box of mixed chocolates. You don't know what you're going to pull out."

Supporters say that Sauerbrey's basic principles are well-known and constant.

"I think a little of the extreme edges have worn off a little bit," said Del. Robert H. Kittleman, the head of the Republican caucus in the House of Delegates.

In the battle over the candidates' trustworthiness, the Sauerbrey camp says it has plenty of ammunition.

Battle over trust

Glendening, they note, has changed his position on state income tax cuts and on capital projects such as a Rockville theater and the Intercounty Connector -- a proposed highway across northern Montgomery County.

Republicans will point out Glendening's record of reversals and ethics problems that have troubled him -- from the special pension plan he and his aides crafted for themselves while he was Prince George's County executive to three fund-raising controversies involving him or close associates.

"I think those things are foremost in people's minds when they think about Parris Glendening and are legitimate issues," said Dornan.

The governor has acknowledged mistakes in fund raising but says the public should focus on his record in the State House.

"We've done what we said we would do," Glendening said. "That's what's important."

Pub Date: 8/15/98

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