Governor focuses on civil rights Sauerbrey's record in House emphasized to black voters

Campaign 1998

October 08, 1998|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Greg Garland contributed to this article.

Attempting to energize support among black voters who make up one of his most important constituencies, Gov. Parris N. Glendening is stepping up his criticism of the civil rights voting record of Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey, including her 1991 vote against Maryland's fair housing law.

The Glendening campaign is distributing fliers that focus on four votes Sauerbrey cast as a member of the House of Delegates, as well as her opposition to minority set-asides in state contracts.

"This is disgusting," Glendening told supporters at a rally last week in Prince George's County, waving a copy of Sauerbrey's voting record. "I didn't know anyone until I looked at this record who voted against civil rights bill after civil rights bill and then wants to run for governor."

Sauerbrey said in a statement last night that Glendening was focusing on a few votes and not on her "strong record on civil rights in the House of Delegates."

Sauerbrey said, "Discrimination is wrong and my administration will fight for all people."

Among the four votes noted by Glendening was Sauerbrey's opposition to a 1991 measure that rewrote Maryland's fair housing law to conform to federal requirements.

The bill updated and strengthened the state's existing law prohibiting housing discrimination on the basis of race, religion or marital status, and it added significant anti-discrimination protections for people with disabilities.

The measure was strongly supported by advocates for affordable housing and the disabled. Among those with concerns was the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, which said the bill gave tenants too broad a right to take their claims to state court rather than to a state agency first.

The bill passed the House of Delegates by a count of 94-34, with Sauerbrey joined mainly by other Republicans and conservative Democrats in opposition. It passed the Senate by a wider margin and was signed into law by then-Gov. William Donald Schaefer.

"I considered a vote against the bill one that would encourage discrimination," said Del. Carol Petzold, a Montgomery County Democrat who sponsored the housing measure.

Overly broad

Carol L. Hirschburg, a spokeswoman for Sauerbrey, said she had voted against the housing bill because it established an overly broad standard for bringing discrimination complaints in court.

Glendening also is noting Sauerbrey's votes against these bills:

* A 1991 measure passed into law that requires the State Police to track violent crimes that are committed against someone because of his or her sexual orientation.

* A 1989 bill, also passed, that increases the amount of damages that can be assessed in an employment discrimination case from 24 to 30 months of back pay.

* A 1992 civil rights measure that would have allowed sexual harassment suits to be brought in Maryland courts rather than federal court, where plaintiffs faced long delays. Sauerbrey was one of only six female delegates voting against the bill, while 26 women were for it. The measure failed in the House by a single vote.

Hirschburg noted that the Democratically controlled House had failed to pass the 1992 civil rights measure. She said Sauerbrey opposed the bill, "despite her concern about workplace issues for women," because it was unclear in defining sexual harassment and would have clogged the court system.

Glendening enjoys his strongest support among black voters, according to a poll conducted last week for The Sun and other news organizations. The poll of likely voters found that African-Americans favor Glendening over Sauerbrey by a ratio of 7-to-1.

But his campaign is concerned that they may not turn out in sufficient numbers to help the governor win re-election.

Rally today

Sauerbrey's voting record on civil rights is likely to be raised today by some black elected officials during a rally outside City Hall in Baltimore.

U.S. Rep. Albert R. Wynn, an ally of Glendening, said the list of votes would resonate with black voters.

"Clearly they don't know about this," said Wynn, a Democrat who represents most of Prince George's and a small part of Montgomery counties. "I think when they find out she voted against civil rights, many will have a very different view of Ellen Sauerbrey."

Aside from the votes, the governor is highlighting comments Sauerbrey made two years ago, when Glendening appointed Robert M. Bell to be the state's chief judge, making him the first African-American to hold the post.

HTC The appointment of Bell, a Harvard-educated judge who had risen through the state's court system, was widely praised within the black community.

Death penalty

Sauerbrey told a reporter at the time that Bell's appointment was "troubling." In particular, she said Bell had often voted to overturn death penalty sentences.

"He has the reputation of being a bleeding-heart liberal," Sauerbrey said in a 1996 article in The Sun. "He never runs out of reasons to oppose the death penalty."

Democrats are also pointing out that Sauerbrey has criticized Maryland's law requiring that 18 percent of state contracts go to companies owned by women or minorities. She has said minority-owned firms should be made ineligible for such set-aside programs as they prosper, but has offered few details.

Pub Date: 10/08/98

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