Glendening, Sauerbrey target other's supporters She campaigns in Prince George's

governor in Balto. Co.

Campaign 1998

September 10, 1998|By C. Fraser Smith and Thomas W. Waldron | C. Fraser Smith and Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF

Conservative Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey appears to be making converts among voters once thought to be wholly beyond her political reach, but her Democratic opponent, Gov. Parris N. Glendening, is countering with a blitz in her Baltimore County base.

Both candidates are scouring the state for supporters outside the groups whose backing took them to a virtual tie in the 1994 general election. Glendening won that race by 5,993 votes out of 1.4 million cast statewide, and the two appear headed to a rematch Nov. 3 after Tuesday's primaries.

A poll taken for The Sun and other news organizations between Sept. 3 and Monday showed another dead heat in the making with Glendening leading 45 percent to 44.4 percent among voters who have made up their minds.

In the poll, though, the momentum was all Sauerbrey's: She was doing better among women and senior citizens as well as among African-Americans -- all of whom have tended to vote Democratic.

With a tight race apparently assured, both candidates have been prospecting for support on the other's home turf.

Just as he has the past two days, Glendening will spend part of today campaigning in Baltimore County, Sauerbrey's home county and a key jurisdiction she carried in 1994.

Sauerbrey, meanwhile, ventured into Glendening's base yesterday, touring two Prince George's County elementary schools, including one with a predominantly black and Hispanic enrollment a few miles from the governor's home.

The GOP candidate plans to campaign often in the Glendening strongholds of Prince George's and Montgomery counties -- and will hammer on questions about Glendening's character and his support for spending $270 million in state funds on two football stadiums.

Sauerbrey appears to be holding her own in Montgomery and picking up slightly more support in Prince George's than she received in 1994, the poll showed. In another close election, such shifts could be crucial.

Sauerbrey said yesterday she would continue her effort to win black votes, suggesting that Glendening and the Democrats have taken blacks for granted.

"Every vote is important to me in my campaign," Sauerbrey said. "I want African-Americans to know that our party is not going to take them for granted."

Glendening, meanwhile, has been buoyed by wide support among local Baltimore County elected officials, and the poll showed he may be doing slightly better there. He even talks confidently about carrying the county in November.

"Our goal is to win Baltimore County," Glendening said yesterday during a stop in Towson. He lost there four years ago by 44 percent to 56 percent -- and appears to be doing slightly better so far this year.

But Glendening's effort to appeal to voters outside his base led him to take what may be a risky step.

After first pledging to support President Clinton, Glendening abruptly asked him to stay away from a fund-raiser planned for October -- and lectured the president on how to be a proper role model for American youth.

His bold move could backfire if it angers African-American voters who are Clinton's most faithful supporters -- and until now, Glendening's base as well.

Asked what should happen to Clinton as a result of his "inappropriate relationship" with former White House intern Monica S. Lewinsky, 81 percent of African-Americans polled in Maryland said the matter should be dropped. Only 46 percent of whites said that.

Glendening's decision to scold the president may have been designed to avoid any appearance of supporting Clinton as he falls further into disrepute -- and perhaps to win some new adherents.

At the very least it has earned him the scorn of one African-American leader with whom Glendening has been hoping rebuild his relationship for the general election -- Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.

The two men have been at odds, and uninviting the president, with whom Schmoke has had a close relationship, may have made rapprochement more difficult.

"This is just politics masquerading as principle," Schmoke said of Glendening's distancing himself from Clinton.

Asked about Schmoke's rebuke yesterday, Glendening said "Everyone has to do what they feel they have to do."

If Clinton survives the increasing furor -- and calls for impeachment or resignation -- the governor may have sacrificed a huge asset in a year when turnout is expected to be very low, according to Keith Haller, president of Potomac Survey Research, which conducted The Sun poll.

"Clinton could have done wonders in boosting African-American turnout if he had come in and did all that was necessary," Haller said. Clinton's job-approval rating, he said, is far higher than Glendening's among African-American voters in Maryland.

At the same time, Haller said, Sauerbrey's progress in majority-black Prince George's County has been striking.

In 1994, Glendening won the county with 68 percent of the vote to 32 percent for Sauerbrey. The Sun poll showed Sauerbrey improving her showing to 37 percent with Glendening slipping to 63 percent.

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