Glendening, Sauerbrey debate ideology, integrity Televised meeting proceeds without major misstep by either

Campaign 1998

October 24, 1998|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF Sun staff writers C. Fraser Smith and Laura Lippman contributed to this article.

COLLEGE PARK -- Gov. Parris N. Glendening and Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey exchanged sharp attacks over ideology and integrity in an hourlong debate at the University of Maryland last night, likely their only televised face-to-face encounter of the campaign.

Sauerbrey repeatedly put the governor on the defensive, hammering at the incumbent for what she said was a lack of steadfastness and pledging to return "trust and integrity to the office of governor."

"I'm looking forward to consistent leadership in the state that puts principle ahead of politics," Sauerbrey said.

Glendening just as persistently turned the focus back to his opponent's conservative voting record as a member of the General Assembly, bringing up her opposition to gun control, abortion and many environmental protection measures.

And he made the case for continuity in a state enjoying a strong economy and declining crime.

"Things are going very well. Why would we change?" Glendening said.

Ten days before the Nov. 3 election, polls show the two are locked in a statistical dead heat. By night's end, it appeared that both candidates had avoided making a major mistake that might dominate the news in the last lap of the campaign.

As is common in political debates, both often failed to respond directly to questions put to them and instead used their answers to get across their campaign themes.

Sauerbrey brought up several examples of what she called Glendening's lack of character, highlighting his recent distancing from President Clinton.

"No one knows where Parris Glendening stands on much of anything," she said, "because his decisions are made with his finger to the wind."

Glendening countered by asserting that he had lived up to his 1994 campaign promises during the past four years, noting he had increased education funding, passed a new gun control law and pushed environmental protection measures.

"That is where the real trust is," he said.

Fundamental values

He said Sauerbrey had remade herself politically for the 1998 campaign.

"We didn't change every fundamental value from four years ago," Glendening said.

In flashes of apparent anger, Sauerbrey turned several times to address Glendening directly.

Almost lecturing, she said at one point: "Parris, I will tell you one more time, I will uphold the [abortion rights] law."

In a move reminiscent of Clinton during a 1992 debate, Glendening momentarily strolled away from the lectern.

Later, the governor walked across the stage to try unsuccessfully to hand her a letter she wrote in 1996 raising concerns about a controversial Montgomery County road project.

Sauerbrey said in the letter that she sympathized with residents over the "devastating environmental impacts" in the area slated for construction of the Intercounty Connector.

She did not take a formal position on the project in the letter but now calls it her No. 1 transportation priority.

Factual error

Glendening made a factual mistake when he said that a taxpayer earning as much as $30,000 would save only $17 a year under Sauerbrey's proposed income tax cut for retirees.

A budget aide said afterward that the actual tax savings would be $17 per week.

And the governor appeared to change his position on a controversial late-term procedure that critics call "partial-birth abortion."

Earlier this year, Glendening said through a spokeswoman that he would veto legislation then pending in the General Assembly to outlaw the procedure, and said such matters should be decided by a woman and her doctor.

Last night, Glendening said: "I oppose partial birth with the exception of the life or health of a woman."

Both candidates said after the debate that they were pleased with their performance.

"I think we did well," Sauerbrey said.

"We were able to address some of the distortions" she said Glendening has put forward about her record.

Said Glendening: "I feel very good. I wish we could do this every two or three days."

Last night's debate, which aired on Maryland Public Television and two Washington-area stations, is expected to be the only one of the campaign.

Each camp has accused the other of avoiding more such encounters.

No agreement on dates

Glendening proposed 13 dates for debates in the month of October, none of which was accepted by the Sauerbrey campaign.

Sauerbrey, meanwhile, criticized Glendening for not appearing with her at an Ocean City debate sponsored by the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, an event Glendening skipped because it was not televised.

In their first campaign against each other four years ago, the two candidates debated twice.

MPT will rebroadcast the debate tomorrow at 8 p.m.

"I think they both held their own very well," said Donald F. Norris, a University of Maryland, Baltimore County professor who closely follows Maryland politics.

"There were no flubs, no boo-boos tonight."

Pub Date: 10/24/98

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