Primary's final campaigning Vote: Gubernatorial candidates make the last of their campaign rounds, seeking support for tomorrow's election.

Campaign 1998

September 14, 1998|By Laura Lippman and Tom Waldron | Laura Lippman and Tom Waldron,SUN STAFF

From churches to ethnic festivals, from Essex to Upper Marlboro, Maryland's gubernatorial candidates followed voters onto their turf yesterday, trolling for support in tomorrow's primary.

But the shadow of the scandal engulfing President Clinton fell across the bright September day, and many voters confessed to a general apathy about all politics -- as well as all politicians.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening, who maintains a strong lead in the polls over two little-known Democratic opponents, was looking ahead to the general election in November with a full day of Washington-area campaigning -- with stops at two Prince George's County churches, a Potomac fund-raiser, an auto workers union meeting and a Latino festival in Rockville.

At Evangel Church, just outside Bowie, Glendening seemed relaxed and at ease, drawing laughs from the congregation and, with the presentation of a state plaque, a standing ovation.

He suggested prayers for Clinton, whom the governor has criticized for his relationship with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

"What we need more than anything is prayers for the first family, prayers for the country," the governor told more than 1,000 worshipers.

Parishioners said they were honored by the governor's visit -- but many still weren't sure how they would vote, if at all.

"I'm disenchanted with the whole political climate right now," said Jennifer Simmons, a federal employee who, although she lives in Prince George's County, feels she has more at stake in Washington's mayoral primary than in any Maryland contest. "I haven't made up my mind in any of the races."

Republican front-runner Ellen R. Sauerbrey zipped around the state as well, hitting the Essex Day street festival, the Prince George's County fair and, like Glendening, the Rockville Latino festival -- a film crew in tow to shoot footage for a campaign commercial.

Joined by her running mate, Richard D. Bennett, Sauerbrey generally received a warm greeting at the Prince George's fair, a short hop from the office building where Glendening served 12 years as county executive.

"We need a change," Gloria Skaggs, a registered Democrat, told Sauerbrey as campaign workers affixed yellow Sauerbrey stickers to Skaggs' shorts. "I think the taxes are getting outrageous and we need better schools."

Meanwhile, Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker, unperturbed by polls that show Sauerbrey leading in the GOP primary, brought his low-key style to events in Frederick, Columbia and Havre de Grace.

"I'm getting tremendous feedback, tremendous," Ecker said, strolling across the parking lot at The Mall in Columbia, where motorcyclists gathered early for a fund-raiser for the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation. "In spite of what the papers say, I think I'm going to do it."

But after Ecker shook hands with Willard Hackett of Beltsville, there to ride his Honda Goldwing in the rally, Hackett confessed he had no idea who the man in the pale green shirt was.

"I know the name, but I wouldn't have recognized him," said Hackett, who also seemed surprised to find out that Ecker was running in the Republican primary, although that didn't keep him from pledging his support. "I'm biased so I'm going to vote for the male."

Glendening's main Democratic opponent, Davidsonville physician Terry McGuire, shook hands and used his decidedly poor Italian skills on the steady flow of people coming to the annual Italian festival at Villa Rosa nursing home near Landover in Prince George's County.

Wearing a yellow baseball cap, McGuire and five supporters handed out brochures and tried to talk politics with a sun-baked crowd that was clearly more interested in fried dough and carnival betting wheels.

"Don't forget you have to vote for me in the primary against this guy Glendening," McGuire exhorted.

"We're very confident," McGuire told a reporter. "We think that Glendening is losing ground every day."

But McGuire's campaigning came to a crashing halt when a maintenance man from the nursing home -- and later a nun -- told him he could not practice politics on the grounds.

Following a brief, but acrimonious exchange between the maintenance man and some of McGuire's supporters, the candidate tried to make amends to the nun.

"I'm sorry, Sister," he said. "I just want you to know I'm the only pro-life candidate in this race."

The nun was unmoved.

Then, turning to his supporters, McGuire barked out the plan: "We're going to the seafood festival."

Pub Date: 9/14/98

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