Voters get the final word Elections today to fill top state posts and congressional seats

Campaigning to the wire

Glendening, Sauerbrey run neck and neck in bitter race for governor

November 03, 1998|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,SUN STAFF Sun staff writers Thomas W. Waldron and Greg Garland contributed to this article.

Bombarded with negative ads and desperate pleas to register their support at the ballot box, Maryland voters get their chance to speak today when they go to the polls to decide a governor's race that remains too close to call.

Starting at 7 a.m. and ending when the polls close at 8 p.m., Marylanders will cast their votes to settle the hard-fought rematch between Democratic Gov. Parris N. Glendening and Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey. In renewing their battle of four years ago, the candidates have blasted each other as political extremists -- and given voters a stark choice.

"What's at stake in the governor's race is the direction of state government -- nothing less than that," said Donald F. Norris, a professor of policy studies at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and a close observer of Maryland politics. "Fundamentally, we've got two quite different candidates in terms of their political philosophy and their political ideology."

State elections officials predict a turnout of 57 percent of the state's 2.5 million registered voters, which would be slightly less than the 61 percent turnout in 1994.

Today's forecast is for cloudy skies with periods of rain, with an afternoon high temperature in the upper 40s.

In addition to choosing a governor, voters will select a state comptroller to succeed the late Louis L. Goldstein, whose name will not be on the ballot for the first time in nearly four decades. The race for the powerful comptroller's post brought former Gov. William Donald Schaefer out of retirement and back into politics. Schaefer, who easily won the Democratic nomination, is running against Republican Larry M. Epstein, an Owings Mills accountant.

Voters will also elect a state attorney general, choosing between three-term Democratic incumbent J. Joseph Curran Jr. and Republican Paul H. Rappaport, a former Howard County police chief who was Sauerbrey's running mate in 1994.

They will also decide whether Democrat Barbara A. Mikulski will retain her seat in the U.S. Senate; she is opposed by Republican Ross Z. Pierpont.

County offices at stake

County executives and county councils are being elected in Baltimore County and in Anne Arundel, Howard and Harford counties. Three commissioners are being elected in Carroll County. Also up for grabs are Maryland's eight seats in the House of Representatives, all 47 seats in the state Senate and all 141 seats in the House of Delegates.

On top of all this, scores of courthouse officials are being elected throughout Maryland -- clerks, registers of wills and state's attorneys -- and dozens of bond issues are being decided.

In choosing a governor for the next four years, voters will answer two questions: Will Sauerbrey, who in four years rose from underdog in the Republican primary for governor to become the state party's dominant personality, complete her climb to become Maryland's highest elected official? Or will Glendening, who touts his record and seeks votes in a Democratic-majority state, return to the governor's mansion for four more years?

Running to the finish

With the finish line in sight, the candidates continued to campaign hard yesterday.

Glendening scheduled a 17-hour day that included traveling from Prince George's County to Montgomery to Baltimore and back to the Washington suburbs in hopes of winning last-minute votes and boosting a strong Democratic turnout.

"We're feeling good, but we keep running like we're behind by one vote," Glendening said as he shook hands at Mondawmin Mall in Northwest Baltimore. "That's why we're going through until 1 a.m. I feel energized."

Sauerbrey was upbeat about her election prospects as she shook hands with lunchtime diners at the busy food court at The Mall in Columbia yesterday. The campaign stop in Howard County was one of seven she had scheduled in a day of campaigning starting in Montgomery County and ending in Parkville.

"We're feeling great," Sauerbrey said. "We've got energized people who really care about this election."

The neck-and-neck governor's race has drawn the attention of President Clinton and a host of national political leaders. Together, Glendening and Sauerbrey spent more than $10 million, making the 1998 race the most expensive in Maryland history. Much of that money was spent on television advertisements designed to scare voters away from their NTC opponents.

Glendening will benefit from big turnouts in his strongholds of Baltimore City and Prince George's and Montgomery counties -- the only three jurisdictions that he carried in 1994. Sauerbrey hopes voters turn out in large numbers in the more conservative areas of Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore.

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