Plans for 2nd debate falter Governor, opponent can agree only on Oct. 23 date

Might not be televised

Sauerbrey reluctance to face off may result from solid poll figures

October 01, 1998|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF

Maryland voters might have only one chance to see the two gubernatorial candidates debate before the Nov. 3 election.

With each camp blaming the other, talks appeared to break down yesterday over scheduling a second debate between Gov. Parris N. Glendening and Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey.

That means only one encounter is on both candidates' schedules -- Oct. 23 at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Even that debate is not certain to be televised, although a Washington station and Maryland Public Television have expressed interest in airing it.

A challenger is usually more eager to debate an incumbent, as a joint appearance tends to increase the challenger's stature.

But the Sauerbrey camp has seemed less interested in arranging debates than Glendening has -- perhaps a reflection of the fact that she is running even with the governor in recent polls.

The Glendening campaign wasted no time in criticizing Sauerbrey after the collapse of discussions over a second debate, which MPT sought to schedule for Oct. 20.

"I have never heard of a campaign negotiating in such bad faith," said Peter S. Hamm, a Glendening campaign spokesman. "It's quite clear that they are deliberately avoiding debating. It's something that Ellen Sauerbrey personally should be held responsible for by the voters of Maryland."

One political expert said Sauerbrey appeared to be making a calculated decision.

"It symbolizes the fact that Glendening is in trouble," said Matthew A. Crenson, a professor of political science at the Johns Hopkins University. "The main weapon he has to deploy against Sauerbrey is her record in the state legislature. She's not going to put herself in the position where he can force her to answer embarrassing questions about changes in her positions."

Hamm said the governor had agreed to three televised debates. Hamm and MPT officials said that the two camps also had agreed to an Oct. 5 debate on MPT but that Sauerbrey had pulled out.

The effort to firm up an Oct. 20 debate appeared to end yesterday when the Sauerbrey campaign backed away -- as Glendening aides scrambled to make time by rescheduling a fund-raiser slated for that night.

Carol L. Hirschburg, a Sauerbrey spokesman, said the campaign could not keep the Oct. 20 date open and moved yesterday to schedule other events for that time. "We've booked something that night," Hirschburg said. "The window has closed on that."

Hirschburg pointed out that Sauerbrey had agreed to debate Oct. 27. But Hamm said that date was too close to the Nov. 3 election to leave time for Glendening to respond to any charges raised by Sauerbrey. "Nobody debates a week out from Election Day," Hamm said. "That's Politics 101."

Hirschburg dismissed that explanation. "I can understand why Glendening wouldn't want to debate too close to the election," she said. "That's when everybody will be paying attention."

Sauerbrey also is scheduled to take part in an Oct. 12 radio debate in Ocean City sponsored by the Maryland Chamber of Commerce. Glendening has chosen not to attend the chamber event.

Pub Date: 10/01/98

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