GOP voters slow to pick favorite for comptroller In poll, 1990 nominee is supported by 12%

3 others get 5% to 8%

Campaign 1998

September 11, 1998|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,SUN STAFF

Timothy R. Mayberry signs his name to a mock check for $840 million, payable to the citizens of Maryland.

Ardath M. Cade, widow of a respected Republican lawmaker, spreads the word that she's got more than a little government experience of her own.

Meanwhile, Larry M. Epstein talks up his expertise as an accountant and the endorsement he received from former Rep. Helen Delich Bentley.

As the campaign for the GOP nomination for state comptroller winds down to its final days -- and a poll shows that Republican voters have been slow to choose sides in the race -- these three candidates are doing their best to draw attention from one large political gesture.

Likely Republican gubernatorial nominee Ellen R. Sauerbrey recruited attorney Michael Steele to run and welcomed him to her ticket.

Her endorsement may yet give Steele a leg up, but a poll released this week found just 5 percent of GOP voters prepared to vote for Steele in Tuesday's primary -- and 70 percent undecided.

Epstein, the Republican nominee for comptroller in 1990, scored highest in the poll, with the support of 12 percent of Republican voters.

Eight percent said they would vote for Mayberry; 5 percent favored Cade.

Mayberry, who won the Republican primary for comptroller four years ago, said Sauerbrey's endorsement of Steele may inadvertently be helping his own candidacy.

Some activists have said Sauerbrey should not be supporting another candidate after Mayberry's efforts in 1994.

"What this endorsement has done is stir up a lot of anger in the party," Mayberry said. "If anything, it seems to have invigorated our supporters."

Mayberry, 42, a banker from Washington County, never stopped campaigning after his 1994 general election loss to Louis L. Goldstein, the political legend who occupied the comptroller's office for nearly four decades. Mayberry had filed to run again before Goldstein died in July.

Steele publicly expressed his support for Mayberry -- only to become a last-minute candidate after Sauerbrey urged him to run.

Steele, 39, a corporate lawyer who heads the Prince George's Republican Party, is seen as helpful to the Sauerbrey ticket as an African-American from the Washington suburbs.

Mayberry remains undeterred, going door-to-door to insist that he can run the office more efficiently than anyone before.

With the help of a campaign spokeswoman who happens to be his mother, he points to his background as a bank vice president and pushes a 10-page plan that he says would save Maryland taxpayers $210 million a year.

That works out to $840 million over a four-year term -- hence the mock check that is part of Mayberry's campaign literature.

He was handing out those checks yesterday afternoon as he strode through the amphitheater at Harborplace to shake hands with voters.

Later, he said he is running for comptroller because he wants to use his expertise to improve the state's finances.

"If I'm not successful but some of my ideas are accepted by someone else, I will have won," Mayberry said.

Cade is a high-ranking administrator for Anne Arundel County government, and Epstein is a partner in an Owings Mills accounting firm.

Epstein, 49, manned a booth at the recently concluded Maryland State Fair in Timonium, telling voters that his experience as a certified public accountant would allow him to sort through complex financial decisions.

"If you don't understand all the sales tax laws and the income tax laws, how can you run that office?" he said.

Epstein also helped prepare the budget for Baltimore County under former County Executive Roger B. Hayden. He says his firm represents many building contractors, giving him experience the mechanics of negotiating and bidding such contracts.

His campaigning, and name recognition from his previous run for office, may be responsible for his lead in the poll, he said.

But he agrees with political activists who believe he might benefit, at least in a general election, from a name that is similar to Goldstein's.

"I was at the state fair, and I handed a guy a brochure and he looked at it and said, 'I vote for you all the time,' " Epstein said.

Bentley has endorsed Epstein -- but only for the primary.

She is close to former Gov. William Donald Schaefer, the likely Democratic nominee for comptroller.

Cade, 62, is human services officer for Anne Arundel County government, overseeing the health, social services, housing and recreation agencies.

Before that, she ran the daily operations of Charles County government and the state's housing department for several years.

She is the widow of state Sen. John A. Cade, a longtime leader of the Republican minority in the General Assembly.

As deputy secretary of housing for the state, she promoted legislation herself.

"I have been an actor in the Annapolis scene for a long time," Cade said. "I am well regarded by the legislature and people generally in Maryland government."

She has stressed her experience working with bond issues and other fiscal matters.

Last month, amid hoopla about the opening of Baltimore's taxpayer-financed football stadium, she called the public financing an "outrage" and said the money should have been used to build schools.

In cable television ads set to run this weekend, she is promoting a plan to combine one or more public facilities -- such as schools, libraries or senior centers -- in a single building or, at the least, on a single piece of land. She says this approach could save up to 15 percent on costs.

In all, six candidates are running for the GOP nomination.

The ballot also includes Eugene R. Zarwell, a corporate executive from Crofton, and Robert W. Kearns, a Queenstown inventor. State election records show that the two have raised no campaign money.

The Republican nominee will face the winner of the Democratic primary, where Schaefer's chief challenger is Baltimore Comptroller Joan M. Pratt. The general election is Nov. 3.

Pub Date: 9/11/98

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