Sauerbrey backs running mate for GOP chair post

November 19, 1998|By C. Fraser Smith | C. Fraser Smith,SUN STAFF

Ellen R. Sauerbrey, the defeated Republican gubernatorial candidate, said yesterday she will not attempt to become chairwoman of the Maryland Republican Party and threw her support to Richard D. Bennett, who ran with her this year for lieutenant governor.

"For me," she said, "it is not the right time. Right now, my family needs me and my batteries need to be recharged." Sauerbrey's stepfather, who lives in Iowa, is seriously ill.

Bennett, 51, said he had been ready to support Sauerbrey, but announced his candidacy after she declined to run. The post is open because of the planned resignation of Joyce Lyons Terhes, who led the party for nine years.

"I think I know what's necessary to keep the party moving forward," he said. "We have to keep our fiscal and social conservatives together and at the same time reach out to minority and female voters."

Bennett will compete for the post against Michael Steele, 41, a Prince George's County lawyer and chairman of that county's Republican Central Committee. Steele announced his candidacy Tuesday.

Set back by its failure to capture the governor's mansion this year, the Maryland GOP now must find party leadership that can help it raise money, recruit candidates and conduct a thorough analysis of what were -- for a party in search of a big breakthrough -- disappointing 1998 election results.

Bennett, who raised significant sums for the party's campaign ,, this year, said he believes his strength will be in his contacts with contributors.

He said he had been assured that, if he ran, Richard Hug would continue as a major fund-raiser for party causes. Hug, a retired Baltimore businessman, helped Sauerbrey raise more than $6 million.

Regarded as one of the GOP's most likely candidates for state office in 2002 -- governor or senator -- Bennett said he believes the party post could be of value to him as a candidate.

The GOP will choose its new chairman Dec. 12 at a party convention in Annapolis.

Pub Date: 11/19/98

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