Voter turnout is focus of race Glendening, Sauerbrey try to draw supporters to the polls Nov. 3

'It's going to be close'

October 18, 1998|By Thomas W. Waldron and Jay Apperson | Thomas W. Waldron and Jay Apperson,SUN STAFF

Locked in a tight race that will likely hinge on voter turnout, the two candidates for governor of Maryland are stepping up their grass-roots efforts to generate enthusiasm and prod their supporters to the polls.

Supporters of Gov. Parris N. Glendening and Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey fanned out around the state yesterday, ringing doorbells and distributing brochures.

In Democratic East Baltimore and in Republican Carroll County, these volunteers shared a goal: to inspire the faithful to register their support where it counts.

"You're the engine that drives this machine," John Winston, the campaign manager for Sen. Perry Sfikas, an East Baltimore Democrat, told a group of 20 volunteers yesterday morning as they prepared to deliver 20,000 pieces of pro-Glendening campaign literature. "You're the ones who are going to get the governor re-elected to four more great years."

Much of the campaign had been focused on public appearances by the candidates and the around-the-clock barrage of television and radio ads.

But with the two candidates hooked up in what polls show to be a dead heat, much of the work in the final two weeks will be concentrated on old-fashioned politics -- phone banks, literature drops and face-to-face campaigning by two small armies of volunteers.

While Democrats enjoy a nearly 2-to-1 edge in voter registration, it is believed that Sauerbrey's supporters are more energized by the race and more likely to vote.

Lack of 'burning' issues

Donald F. Norris, a political science professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and a close observer of Maryland politics, said there seems to be a lack of "burning" issues that might motivate fence-sitting Democrats to the polls.

"I think it all depends on Democratic turnout," Norris said.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, a Democratic ally of Glendening, agreed.

"If it rains on Election Day, I think she wins," Miller said. "If it's fair weather, I think the Democratic majority will come out and the governor will win."

Sauerbrey, who shook hands yesterday at the Maryland Million horse races at Laurel Park, calls turnout "critical" and predicts her troops will do a better job than the governor's.

"We have such a strong grass-roots organization and there's more enthusiasm," Sauerbrey said Friday night, in the midst of a $50-a-head fund-raiser at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium that attracted more than 2,000 people. "I think our turnout is what's going to be what puts us over the top."

Among those trying to rouse the Democratic majority yesterday was Francine Schaffer, a member of the Democratic State Central Committee in the 46th Legislative District, who spent much of the day dropping off pro-Glendening literature at brick rowhouses in the Cedonia neighborhood of Northeast Baltimore.

Schaffer, a Baltimore County school official, left a glossy red, white and blue brochure headlined "For Northeast Baltimore!" at the home of each registered Democrat or Independent.

'Up to the community'

In an effort to shore up support among Democrats who may be skeptical about Glendening, the handout features a testimonial from Sfikas about the governor, and includes a photograph of U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, perhaps the state's most popular political figure, according to polls.

Until the election, there will be more "lit drops," and phone calls to voters. On Election Day, "checkers" will keep track of who has not voted in each precinct in the 46th District. Those who haven't will get a reminder call or a knock on the door during the day, Sfikas said.

"The governor put his money where his mouth was for this area. Now it's up to the community folks to do their part," said Sfikas, who is unopposed Nov. 3 and is using his campaign funds to help the governor.

A key target for Glendening will be black voters, who tend to turn out in lesser numbers than whites, but among whom the governor enjoys a overwhelming advantage over Sauerbrey.

At a rally geared to African-American voters last week in Northwest Baltimore, organizers provided stacks of color-coded guides -- one color for clergy and another for unions -- that included tips for setting up phone banks.

In coming days, Democrats will organize more rallies, marches and high-visibility events in predominantly black neighborhoods, while Baltimore's Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance is planning an insert in the Baltimore Afro-American newspaper on behalf of Glendening.

'Very few undecideds'

But specific appeals are not limited to African-American voters. Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, a Baltimore Democrat, is preparing an ad on behalf of the governor to appear in the Baltimore Jewish Times.

Some supporters are delivering a letter from the governor to veterans' groups that touts his record on veterans' issues and notes that two of his siblings, although not Glendening, were in the military.

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