Clinton rallies Democrats to vote at New Psalmist Glendening gets a boost

Sauerbrey barnstorms by bus

'You're in charge'

Campaign 1998

November 02, 1998|By C. Fraser Smith and JoAnna Daemmrich | C. Fraser Smith and JoAnna Daemmrich,SUN STAFF Sun staff writers Lisa Respers, Thomas W. Waldron and William F. Zorzi Jr. contributed to this article.

President Clinton stood in the pulpit of a West Baltimore Church yesterday and urged African-Americans to honor the heroes of their "long march to dignity" by voting tomorrow for the Clinton administration agenda and for Democratic candidates in Maryland.

"On Tuesday," the president said, addressing an overwhelmingly Democratic audience, "you're in charge of the arithmetic -- if you vote."

Democrats outnumber Republicans in Maryland among registered voters by 2-1. In Baltimore, it's 8-1.

The president's visit to New Psalmist Baptist Church in the 4500 block of Old Frederick Road was arranged by a member of the congregation -- Democratic Rep. Elijah E. Cummings. He hoped to stimulate a heavy turnout for Gov. Parris N. Glendening, who is locked in a tight race with Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey.

Religious services were also on the GOP candidate's campaign schedule yesterday.

"We started in church in the county where the state started, which seemed appropriate," said Sauerbrey after attending the 8 a.m. service at Lexington Park Methodist in St. Mary's County.

She was joined for part of the day by Republican Gov. James S. Gilmore III of Virginia and Pat Harrison, co-chair of the Republican National Committee.

A day that began in quiet prayer ended in fractious confrontation in front of the State House last night, when about 50 Glendening backers blew whistles and chanted with bullhorns to disrupt Sauerbrey's final stop of a three-day bus tour across Maryland.

While the demonstrators chanted "Four more years," Sauerbrey's contingent of an estimated 300 answered with, "Two more days!"

"The bullies are here and they can try to out-scream us but they are not going to win," Sauerbrey shouted to the enthusiastic crowd.

Earlier in Baltimore, thousands turned out to catch a glimpse of the president, who traveled from the White House by helicopter.

As many as 3,000 of New Psalmist's 6,000 members heard the president extol the sacrifices of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., South African President Nelson Mandela and Rosa Parks, the Birmingham, Ala., seamstress whose refusal to sit in the back of the bus was a galvanizing moment in the American struggle for civil rights.

"There are thousands of you," Clinton said, hitting the turnout theme repeatedly. "You will see tens of thousands more between now and Tuesday. Be a doer. Take them by the hand. Tell them about Rosa Parks. Ask them not to forget what Dr. King died for."

Though Clinton's visit may give a lift to Glendening, the president mentioned him sparingly, observing that he had pioneered reforms in education and environmental protections.

Glendening's relationship with the president has been a rocky one. But the president recently recorded radio commercials urging Marylanders to vote for the governor in tomorrow's election. After Clinton acknowledged a sexual affair with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky, Glendening expressed his support of the president.

But later, with the special prosecutor's report pending, Glendening declined to appear with Clinton at a Silver Spring school and asked the president not to attend a Glendening fund-raiser.

For one of those at yesterday's three-hour church service, the visit meant Glendening would get her vote.

"If Clinton can forgive him, then he's saying we can forgive him too," said Angela Bethea-Spearman, 38, a Social Security Administration employee and president of the Upland Homeowner's Association.

Ten-year-old Oleo Samuels was determined to be photographed with the president and television cameras caught him as he rushed up to Clinton during the service.

The fifth-grader at Rosa Parks Middle Roman Catholic School got his wish. Several pictures were taken -- by a White House photographer and one with the youngster's camera.

"I went up to him and asked if I could get a picture with him and he didn't even hesitate," said Oleo after his photo session and hug from Clinton.

"He was so warm," Oleo's mother, Marlene Ijomah, said of Clinton. She and her son were escorted to a room for photos with the president. "It's something he will treasure for the rest of his life, having met the president and having the president keep his word like he did."

Hilda Locke, 89, a church member for 65 years, was not particularly impressed with the idea of Clinton coming to New Psalmist.

"I come to church every Sunday morning," Locke said. "President or no president, I don't care. I don't serve the president; I serve God."

Clinton, who quoted confidently from the Bible and appeared to know the words of the hymns by heart, listened attentively to a rousing sermon by New Psalmist pastor, the Rev. Walter S. Thomas, who occasionally appeared to speak directly to the president.

"When God is giving out revelation," he said, "he does not look to the perfect. God gives revelation to flawed folk, people who make mistakes."

Clinton responded later by saying, "I never wanted your sermon to end." And he said he was grateful "to be reminded of the truths I need to hear, too."

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