A hectic campaign week for governor Glendening reminds Md. voters of his 'progressive' policies

August 30, 1998|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,SUN STAFF

During a furiously paced campaign sweep through the state last week, Gov. Parris N. Glendening found himself ready to shake yet another hand at a new adult day care center in Cambridge.

Staring back at him from a wheelchair was Doris J. Horney, 75, who thanked him, with tears in her eyes, for the state's help in making Pleasant Day Medical Adult Day Care a reality.

"We pay taxes all our lives, and then you get something like this building, something worthwhile," Horney said.

Glendening seemed genuinely touched, but just as clearly pleased. The moment appeared to affirm a premise that is at the core of his re-election campaign -- that voters are interested not just in cutting taxes, but in preserving the services their tax dollars buy.

Or as Glendening puts it, in maintaining "the quality of life" in Maryland.

During a week of old-fashioned politicking, he sounded that emerging Democratic theme repeatedly -- reminding voters of the benefits of the "progressive" policies and programs created and expanded under his administration, and stressing a need to balance that against tax-cut fever.

Implicit was a reference to his likely Republican opponent in November, Ellen R. Sauerbrey, who is hoping that her proposals to further cut state income taxes and provide a $200 million tax break for retirees will carry her to the governor's mansion.

"We keep hearing about cutting taxes, but we did that," Glendening said. "And we did it in a fiscally responsible way, while still having $700 million in reserves."

Glendening noted that he and the Democrat-controlled General Assembly already have cut the state income tax rate by 10 percent, eliminated 15 business taxes and pushed through an expansion of the "circuit breaker" property tax credit for low- to moderate-income homeowners, many of whom are seniors.

Time and again on the campaign trail, Glendening also emphasized what he believes the role and responsibility of government should be -- meeting the "compassionate needs" of its citizens. He ticked off the administration's list of accomplishments, a hefty record of expanded services and programs afforded, in large part, by Maryland's booming economy over the past 3 1/2 years.

He stressed the administration's commitment to education as the No. 1 priority, pointing out the state's new spending for state colleges and K-12 education, as well as record amounts budgeted to build and renovate public schools -- the largest such expenditure since the early 1970s.

Glendening, depending on the audience, went on to list what he considers the administration's other accomplishments -- ranging from a health care initiative that provides coverage for 60,000 low-income children and pregnant women to his runoff-control plan to help prevent outbreaks of toxic Pfiesteria in Maryland waters.

"We have a good record," he said. "The state is in really, really good shape."

That record, said Keith Haller, president of Potomac Research Inc., "ought to resonate with voters."

Polling data suggest it has not.

In a poll conducted by Haller's company last month, 42 percent of likely voters gave Glendening "good" or "excellent" marks for his performance as governor, while 54 percent rated it as "poor" or "only fair."

"It's the messenger that needs to be jazzed up a little bit," Haller said. "Fundamentally, the public doesn't have a good sense of Glendening, the man or the person.

"They have not connected with him on a personal basis and he's not getting the benefit of the state's forward progress," he said.

Efforts to connect

Glendening has been stepping up his efforts to connect.

Last weekend, he shuttled between Prince George's County and Baltimore. On Monday, he hit a Towson senior center, where he touted a new effort to encourage adults to volunteer in local schools. Tuesday found him in Montgomery County, a key battleground in this fall's election, where he announced $42.2 million in road improvements and dropped in at another county senior center.

Wednesday he was on the Eastern Shore, where he met the downtown lunch crowd in Easton and toured the private Pleasant Day facility, which was built in part with $1 million from state grant programs. Thursday, he was in Anne Arundel County, where Democrats are fighting to keep the rising Republican tide from gaining more ground. Again, he visited a senior center.

On Friday, though he spent much of the day on government business in Annapolis, he capped the day at the Montgomery County Fair -- for the second time that week. He was back on the road in the gubernatorial Chevy Tahoe yesterday at three events in Howard County and was scheduled to tour Baltimore churches today before hitting the Maryland State Fair in Timonium in the afternoon.

In dramatic contrast to Glendening's schedule, Sauerbrey did scant public campaigning last week. She instead worked the phones much of the time, raising money to ensure a strong showing in campaign finance reports that are due Friday for all contributions through today.

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