Black trio disputes Sauerbrey racist tag Schmoke, Mitchell III, Boston label ads of Glendening 'divisive'

October 30, 1998|By C. Fraser Smith and William F. Zorzi Jr. | C. Fraser Smith and William F. Zorzi Jr.,SUN STAFF

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and two other prominent African-American political figures came to the defense of Republican gubernatorial candidate Ellen R. Sauerbrey yesterday, saying the person they know is not a racist.

Former state Sen. Clarence M. Mitchell III and Del. Frank D. Boston called the GOP candidate a decent and honest person during a Democrats for Sauerbrey rally last night at Polish Home Club on Broadway.

A spokesman for Schmoke said the mayor had declined a request from Gov. Parris N. Glendening's campaign to make a commercial attacking Sauerbrey's record on civil rights.

"I would not participate in a campaign to describe or try to persuade people that Mrs. Sauerbrey is a racist," Schmoke said during a City Hall news conference.

The mayor said he had had "frank discussions" with Sauerbrey recently and knows there is a difference between being a conservative and being a racist.

A spokesman for the Glendening campaign, Peter S. Hamm, acknowledged yesterday that Schmoke was asked to make a campaign commercial.

"In conversations with the mayor, we've laid out a number of things he could do to be helpful," Hamm said. "We did suggest that taping an ad is one of many things "

Boston and others called the Glendening ads "divisive," and Sauerbrey has called them race baiting, but Hamm said, "We clearly have never called her a racist. We have stated quite clearly that there are two different views of the role of government. The governor is a progressive who believes the government should play a very strong role in protecting its citizens. Ellen Sauerbrey believes the government should stay out of these matters."

Hamm said he believes the Sauerbrey campaign has distorted the mayor's remarks. The main point, he said, is this:

"She has a terrible record on civil rights. Parris Glendening thinks government should protect individual rights. Ellen Sauerbrey thinks we should leave these matters to the marketplace. So, we're not questioning her motives, we're questioning her votes. She should be ashamed of her votes."

Glendening's ads say that Sauerbrey voted against three civil rights bills, including a 1991 rewrite of the state's fair housing law. And the Maryland Democratic Party has run commercials, asserting that Sauerbrey would turn back the clock on civil rights.

But Boston and Mitchell disagreed.

"I felt compelled to come here tonight," said Boston, "because I have seen all those TV ads. They are so divisive. I know one thing: Ellen is not a racist."

Moments later, Mitchell said, "I came here tonight to set the record straight on the Ellen Sauerbrey I know. Ellen Sauerbrey is no racist."

Mitchell said he has been going through the Baltimore political district he used to represent in Annapolis, "straightening out the record of vicious lies" spread by Sauerbrey's opponents.

Mitchell is a son of one of the nation's civil rights heroes, Clarence M. Mitchell Jr.

"I have the highest respect for Ellen Sauerbrey," he said. "I couldn't stand by and let these stories go unanswered."

The former legislator did not endorse Sauerbrey's campaign for governor, but he said he would "never" endorse Glendening.

Schmoke's spokesman, Clint Coleman, said the Glendening campaign had asked the mayor to make an "attack" ad against Sauerbrey -- and to put up $25,000 to underwrite the costs of production and putting the ad on television.

"He declined," Coleman said.

Pub Date: 10/30/98

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