Glendening's, Sauerbrey's foes optimistic until the end Ecker and McGuire hoped for victories in long-shot races

Governor's race

Primary 1998

September 16, 1998|By Laura Lippman | Laura Lippman,SUN STAFF

They campaigned, they were seen, they were conquered.

Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker and Terry McGuire surprised no one -- except possibly themselves -- with their defeats last night in the gubernatorial primaries.

"I'm sorry you didn't have a normal politician [to support]," Ecker said in his concession speech at 10: 30 p.m., prompting wild applause at his Howard County campaign headquarters.

It was the closest Ecker would come to expressing any regrets for a campaign that had been given little chance for success since he announced in October.

Polls had consistently shown that both men were long-shot obstacles to a Glendening-Sauerbrey rematch in the November general election. A poll released last week had Ecker almost 60 percentage points behind Sauerbrey. Meanwhile, McGuire was almost 50 percentage points behind Gov. Parris N. Glendening -- and 3 percentage points behind Eileen M. Rehrmann, who had withdrawn from the race too late to have her name removed from the ballot.

Yet the two men remained characteristically optimistic yesterday that their candidacies had tapped some vein of voter discontent so deep that it could not be detected by pollsters. After all, Ecker was the political novice who had upset incumbent Elizabeth Bobo in the 1990 race for Howard County executive. And McGuire is the doctor whose clinic displays a plaque to St. Jude, patron saint of hopeless causes.

"I feel good, feel good," Ecker, who will turn 70 in December, had said earlier yesterday as he made the rounds of polling places throughout the central portion of the state, thanking workers and voters, who were scarce. "I may take [today] off, but then I have 43 days to the general." (Actually, there are 48 days to the election if one takes today off.)

He did acknowledge that his candidacy could have benefited from an open primary system, which would allow Democrats to vote in the Republican primary, while giving registered independents a vote as well.

McGuire, 56, who lives in Davidsonville, had run for the Democratic nomination as a pro-labor, anti-abortion candidate. He had worked on several state and local campaigns before his disgust with politics led him to enter the race against Glendening.

"I feel that the low turnout we're seeing is to my benefit," he said, stopping for lunch in Little Italy. "But win or lose, I have no regrets. I raised issues that go against the grain."

His was a shoe-leather campaign, a fact he highlighted by buying a new pair of shoes at the start. McGuire hoped his sheer enthusiasm -- and the $500,000 he lent the campaign -- could bridge the gap between himself and the well-financed incumbent.

Such things can happen in politics. Dairy farmer Fred Tuttle won the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate just last week in Vermont, after vowing to spend no more than $16 on his campaign against a millionaire corporate consultant. (It helped that he had appeared in a low-budget independent film about running for Congress, "Man with a Plan," which made him a celebrity in his home state.) Tuttle, 79, now has to face incumbent Sen. Patrick J. Leahy.

But this upstart scenario was not to be in Maryland. With 96 percent of the precincts reporting statewide, Glendening led McGuire 69 percent to 11 percent and Sauerbrey led Ecker 81 percent to 19 percent.

McGuire did have bragging rights as one of the last candidates standing in the Democratic primary. Rehrmann dropped out in August, while two other hopefuls -- Raymond F. Schoenke Jr. and Don Allensworth -- never even entered the race. The only other viable candidate on election day was Lawrence K. Freeman, a supporter of Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr., who was polling about 6 percent.

Pub Date: 9/16/98

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