Maryland Democrats denounce Sauerbrey environmental record

September 10, 1998|By Laura Lippman | Laura Lippman,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Thomas W. Waldron contributed to this article.

Maryland Democrats, worried that gubernatorial candidate Ellen R. Sauerbrey has been too successful in presenting herself as a moderate Republican, denounced her record on environmental issues yesterday.

The Annapolis news conference was the first of three the state party plans to use to examine Sauerbrey's voting record in the House of Delegates, promised Peter Krauser, chairman of the Maryland Democratic Party. State Democrats also will issue "report cards" for her positions on education and gun-control issues over the next eight weeks.

But the environment may be one of her most vulnerable positions, based on the results of a recent poll for The Sun and several other news organizations.

Twenty-nine percent of voters polled by Potomac Survey Research said they had "serious doubts about Ellen Sauerbrey's commitment to protect the environment and the Chesapeake Bay" -- though a quarter of them still identified themselves as likely Sauerbrey voters.

"I think a Sauerbrey administration would be about as helpful to the Chesapeake Bay as another outbreak of Pfiesteria," said state Sen. Brian E. Frosh, a Montgomery County Democrat who chairs the environment subcommittee of Economic and Environmental Affairs.

The news conference was held in the waterfront home of his predecessor on the subcommittee, former state Sen. Gerald W. Winegrad, who said his one-time colleague, Sauerbrey, "goes out of her way to vote against the environment."

For him, Winegrad said, the issue isn't partisan politics -- he said he could support moderate Republicans such as U.S. Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest of the 1st District and state Sen. F. Vernon Boozer of Towson. But Sauerbrey's record on environmental issues steadily worsened over her four terms in the House, according to the League of Conservation Voters, falling from 33 percent to 10 percent.

Sauerbrey dismissed the Democrats' criticism yesterday by saying they had focused on only a few select pieces of legislation. She said that when she voted on many of those issues, she worried that a vote to protect the environment would create another problem by hurting a section of the economy.

"It's a little bit silly to say that someone who was a biology teacher has no appreciation of what is good science and good for the environment," Sauerbrey said during a campaign swing at a Prince George's County school. "I believe that I have always cast votes based on sound science."

In a recent interview, Sauerbrey acknowledged in retrospect that at least one of her votes -- against a 1985 phosphate ban that is widely credited with reducing nutrient pollution in the Chesapeake Bay -- was wrong. She said she would vote for it now.

Pub Date: 9/10/98

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