Sauerbrey, Glendening rally forces Coalition praises governor's support of abortion rights

Candidates tap grievances

Challenger outlines improved benefits for state employees

Campaign 1998

October 06, 1998|By Michael Dresser and Greg Garland | Michael Dresser and Greg Garland,SUN STAFF rTC Sun staff writer Chris Guy contributed to this article.

Praising Gov. Parris N. Glendening for his support of abortion rights, a coalition of women's groups endorsed his re-election bid yesterday and predicted Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey will try to roll back those rights if she wins the election.

Sauerbrey, meanwhile, received a warm reception from a state employees' group for her promises of improved benefits and "salary increases that at the very least keep up with inflation."

With the Nov. 3 election less than a month away, Sauerbrey and Glendening moved to sew up the support of organizations with deep-seated grievances against the other candidate.

Traci Siegel, executive director of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League's Maryland chapter, said Sauerbrey "voted to deny women the right to choose at every turn during her 16 years in the Maryland General Assembly."

She said that in contrast, "Governor Glendening has fulfilled his promise to oppose any efforts to limit women's access to safe and legal abortions."

Her group was among several women's organizations to announce endorsements of Glendening and Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. Others included the National Organization for Women's Maryland chapter and Harriet's List, a group that provides financial support to Democratic women candidates who support abortion rights.

Sauerbrey visited Ocean City to speak to the Maryland Classified Employees Association, a union that has lost influence since being defeated in elections to determine the bargaining agent for state workers under Glendening's collective bargaining order. The union is expected to endorse Sauerbrey today or tomorrow.

The Glendening endorsement announcement drew about 120 supporters to a news conference and rally near the State House.

Speakers lauded Glendening for his positions on abortion rights, the environment and gun control, for appointing women to top policy-making positions and for providing new state aid for public education.

Glendening told the group that women were a big reason that he was one of only four new Democrats to be elected governor in 1994, a Republican year throughout most of the country. "We did it because of the huge vote, the huge margin, that the women of this state gave Kathleen and me," he said.

Siegel, recalling a 1992 statewide referendum in which 62 percent of Maryland voters supported abortion rights, warned that Sauerbrey led the fight against the "pro-choice law she now says she's going to protect."

Sauerbrey has said she will uphold the state's abortion rights law, but wants a ban on the late-term procedure that opponents call "partial-birth abortion." She also has said she wants to toughen parental-consent provisions and greatly restrict Medicaid funding of abortions for poor women.

Abortion rights warning

Siegel and other speakers warned that abortion rights are in jeopardy in Maryland since two moderate Republican senators, F. Vernon Boozer of Baltimore County and John W. Derr of Frederick County, lost their seats in the primary election. Both had been supporters of abortion rights.

"The only thing standing between the people of Maryland and the loss of abortion rights is the veto power of a pro-choice governor. And the only candidate who will use his veto pen to protect choice is Gov. Parris Glendening," Siegel said.

In her speech to the MCEA, the conservative Sauerbrey portrayed Glendening as a skinflint boss who laid off state workers and delayed even small pay raises until an election year.

"You know that what you have gotten from Parris Glendening is a worthless piece of paper called a collective bargaining executive order, two football stadiums, a few pennies in your pocket and no respect," she told the group.

The MCEA has been at odds with Glendening in the aftermath of his 1996 executive order establishing limited collective bargaining rights for state workers.

Maryland's oldest association of state employees was the big loser in that process -- winning none of the seven representation elections in which it competed. The majority were won by MCEA's rival, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which backs Glendening.

Sauerbrey initially opposed Glendening's collective bargaining order -- even calling for a special session of the General Assembly to override it. But yesterday she told MCEA that she would honor the benefits state employees have won in bargaining.

At times sounding like a liberal Democrat, Sauerbrey promised programs to make state government "family-friendly" -- including family leave, job-sharing and telecommuting. She criticized Glendening for increasing the use of contractual workers, who receive no benefits.

In an interview after her speech, Sauerbrey indicated that she would give MCEA a role in bargaining and equal access to state workers despite its electoral defeats. "I intend to meet with representatives of all groups," she said.

Assurances to state workers

She also assured MCEA members she would try to insulate state workers from budget cutbacks.

"Cost-of-living increases and annual increments will not be frozen, and I will not play politics with pay raises," she said. "As governor, I will establish a salary review team to ensure that salaries for state employees are competitive with private-sector salaries for comparable employment."

She said that state employees would suffer no adverse consequences from her plan to cut income taxes by 14 percent.

"Contrary to what Parris Glendening claims, Maryland's income tax burden can be reduced significantly without laying off state employees, without cutting their pay and benefits, without eliminating state services and without transferring burdens to the localities," she said.

George Johnson, executive director of AFSCME's District 92, said later that Sauerbrey was simply "telling people what they want to hear."

"Her record shows she'd try to put her foot on any state employee she could," Johnson said.

Pub Date: 10/06/98

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