Sauerbrey stands alone in speech to Maryland Chamber of Commerce Glendening declines invitation to debate

Campaign 1998

October 13, 1998|By Michael Dresser and Thomas Waldron | Michael Dresser and Thomas Waldron,SUN STAFF

OCEAN CITY -- Appearing alone because Gov. Parris N. Glendening declined an invitation to debate, challenger Ellen R. Sauerbrey told the Maryland Chamber of Commerce last night that Maryland needs to change its "basic culture" or risk losing ground to neighboring states.

"For some reason, Virginia is cleaning our clock," said Sauerbrey after reciting a series of statistics showing Maryland lagging Virginia in economic growth.

The Republican candidate, filling a keynote role more often reserved for incumbent governors, promised business leaders she would cut state taxes in a virtually painless fashion, vowing specifically to protect spending on education.

"Cutting taxes really does work to stimulate the economy and bring in additional revenue," Sauerbrey told several hundred people who gathered here for the chamber's annual legislative conference.

Traditionally, the governor gives the keynote speech each year, except in election years when the chamber prefers to sponsor a debate between the two leading candidates.

Glendening's decision not to attend essentially abdicated one of the state's more bully pulpits to his opponent, who was clearly delighted to fill the vacuum.

Sauerbrey's speech broke little new ground, touching on themes she has articulated across the state for many months.

But conferees did not seem to mind, giving her standing ovations after the speech and after a brief question-and-answer period.

Touching on a leading concern of business leaders, Sauerbrey vowed to hire a high-profile bureaucracy buster to review state regulations.

"Governors have tremendous powers over regulations and I intend to use them for the good of Maryland," Sauerbrey said. She added the caveat that she would not jettison regulations necessary for clean air, clean water, healthy food or safe work places.

She seldom mentioned Glendening, saying simply that it was "unfortunate" that he chose not to debate her before the state's leading business organization.

In response to questions from the audience, Sauerbrey struck consistent notes of reassurance that she is not running as a hard-line conservative.

"I'm not going to shut down state government, as many are afraid," she told a questioner who was concerned about tourism and spending. If anything, Sauerbrey said, she would increase that budget as well as investing in museums and the arts.

The governor's decision not to debate before the chamber did nothing to mend his frayed relations with Maryland's business establishment.

"We're disappointed, there's no question about that," said Champe McCulloch, president of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce. "And there are some in the business community who will see it as a slight. I guess I see it as a missed opportunity."

Glendening's no-show appeared to reinforce perception among business leaders that Sauerbrey's campaign is gaining momentum.

"It's almost as though it's Ellen's race to lose," said George Cormeny, director of economic development at First National Bank of Maryland.

Cormeny said that even strong Democrats in the chamber are becoming comfortable with the idea of a Sauerbrey administration.

"They aren't whining and saying, 'What will happen if Ellen gets in?' " Cormeny said.

Glendening's decision to stay way disappointed some of his Democratic supporters here.

"I'm sorry he wasn't here because he could have set the record straight as far as some of the things he has done that the chamber has been in favor of," said Del. Virginia P. Clagett of Anne Arundel County.

Glendening opted not to take part in the Ocean City debate because it was not televised, campaign spokesman Peter S. Hamm said.

Instead of debating last night, Glendening attended a small fund-raiser, made remarks at the funeral of former Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Robert B. Watts, and appeared at a meeting of a black fraternal group in Balti- more, Hamm said.

Hamm noted that Glendening had agreed to take part in televised debates on 13 nights this month, while Sauerbrey had accepted only one such event.

Glendening enjoyed a warm reception yesterday from some 150 teachers and others at a rally at Morgan State University organized by the state's two leading teachers unions.

"We're here to stand up for Parris Glendening, because he stood up for us," said Karl K. Pence, president of the Maryland State Teachers Association, which represents about 40,000 teachers.

Pence cited Glendening's support for more state education funding as well as improvements in the pensions of teachers and other state workers.

Representatives of the Baltimore Teachers Union, which is not affiliated with the MSTA, also took part in the rally.

Pub Date: 10/13/98

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