GOP seeks rural edge W. Md. Democrats hope to survive Republican surge

House tone could shift

GOP could filibuster with gain of one seat in Senate tomorrow

November 02, 1998|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

An article in The Sun yesterday incorrectly stated the number of seats the Republican Party would have to gain in today's election to sustain a filibuster in the state Senate against a reapportionment plan. To sustain a filibuster in the Senate normally takes at least 16 votes, but maintaining filibusters against redistricting plans require 19 votes under Senate rules.

The Sun regrets the error.

Four years ago, Democratic Del. D. Bruce Poole was nearly swamped in the Republican tide that swept through his pastoral district in Western Maryland. While Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey took 64 percent of the Washington County vote in her first run for governor, Poole hung on for a third term by 76 votes.

Meanwhile, in neighboring Frederick County, which Sauerbrey won by a similar margin, Democrat Sue Hecht enjoyed a relative landslide as she swept into the House of Delegates by a margin of 234 votes.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

This year, both Hecht and Poole are seeking re-election in districts with increased Republican registration. They fully expect Sauerbrey to crush Gov. Parris N. Glendening in their home counties. And both are the targets of aggressive GOP challenges.

"If I didn't start with one foot in a bear trap, it wouldn't be a race," Poole joked during a recent interview in Hagerstown.

Democratic leaders are hoping his and Hecht's strong local ties and political skills will help them survive in tomorrow's statewide elections.

The party's control of the House of Delegates is not in jeopardy. The Democratic majority in the House this term stands at 100-41.

However, the political tone of the House could shift somewhat if the GOP is successful in capturing a significant number of seats held by moderate to conservative Democrats. Republicans think they have a shot at about a dozen Democratic delegates in conservative districts.

These rural Democrats provide crucial support for House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., one of their own. Without them, the speaker would have a much harder time staying in step with a more liberal Democratic caucus.

For his part, Taylor is optimistic. He predicts that the Democrats will pick up three to six seats in the House.

In the Senate, where Democrats hold a 32-15 edge, Republicans need to gain one seat to reach the level where they can sustain a filibuster -- especially on the crucial issue of reapportionment of all Maryland congressional and state legislative districts for the 2002 election. Here the battlegrounds are in suburban areas.

Senate Republicans pin their hopes on strong challenges to Democratic Sens. Edward J. Kasemeyer in Howard and Baltimore counties, Donald C. Fry in Harford County and Michael J. Collins in eastern Baltimore County. Democrats are confident they can defend those seats and hope to unseat Sens. C. Edward Middlebrooks in Anne Arundel County and Jean W. Roesser in Montgomery County, and to pick up an open GOP seat in Harford County.

In the House, Taylor is investing heavily in such delegates as Poole and Hecht, both of whom have received $4,000 contributions from the speaker's campaign fund. From the Republican point of view, Hecht's and Poole's districts and others like them are vital to their goal of making Maryland a true two-party state.

Kevin Igoe, a Republican political consultant, predicts the GOP will make modest gains in the House but not on the scale of 1990 or 1994.

But Hecht's and Poole's districts are ones he thinks are ripe for falling into Republican hands.

Igoe said Hecht's district -- 80 percent in Frederick County and 20 percent in Washington County -- has posted a net gain of almost 3,000 Republican voters since the last election. He said her record leaves her vulnerable to accusations that she is out of step with her district.

"She's got some bad votes. She voted for the [Ravens] stadium. She voted for Glendening's gun bill. She voted against Sauerbrey's tax bill," said Igoe, who is working for Republican challenger William Castle.

Hecht, the only Democrat in the three-member 3rd District delegation, faces a complicated race in which family names could play a large part. Her other Republican challenger is Joe Bartlett, the 28-year-old son of U.S. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett. One of her fellow Democratic nominees is Richard Stup, a relative of Anita Stup, a popular Republican delegate who is retiring. One of the three seats is almost certain to be retained by Republican Del. Louise V. Snodgrass.

Local Republicans are focusing their efforts on picking up Hecht's seat, even holding a "Hecht No!" rally in Frederick to mock her "Hecht Yes!" slogan.

But the 50-year-old Hecht, former director of a domestic violence shelter in Frederick, said she feels good about the race. She is unapologetic about her record -- including her staunch defense of abortion rights.

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