Maryland joins in rush to back Gore

Bush victory margin unexpectedly wide

March 08, 2000|By Michael Hill | Michael Hill,SUN STAFF

Maryland provided its share of momentum to Al Gore's Super Tuesday sweep of primaries from Democratic rival Bill Bradley yesterday and gave an important victory to Republican George W. Bush in a state considered sympathetic to John McCain's more moderate appeal.

"Gore, Gore, Gore. I think Gore's far the superior politician," Suzanne Gwiazda, 57, a Montgomery County attorney, said of her choice in the Democratic primary.

"[Bradley] is too much of an evangelistic goody two-shoes. I don't think that gets you very far in the political world."

The result came as no surprise to Gov. Parris N. Glendening, who spent the weekend campaigning for Gore.

"We were confident going into the election, and the results met or exceeded our expectations," he said last night before celebrating at the governor's mansion. "All weekend we could feel something was happening."

Gore won by more than a 2-to-1 margin over Bradley. Bush had 56 percent of the vote in the Republican primary to 36 percent for McCain with all precincts counted. The only other active candidate, Maryland resident Alan L. Keyes, had 7 percent.

Gore's victory was across-the-board in every geographical and demographic grouping of voters. Exit polls found that nine of every 10 African-American voters backed Gore.

In the West Baltimore neighborhood near Bethel A.M.E. Church, whose pastor, Frank Reid III, endorsed Bradley, almost every voter interviewed was for Gore.

Ronald Hay, a Northwest Baltimore resident and city employee, was the one exception. "I think Bradley has proven himself as a unifying leader," he said, later adding, "The main reason is that my pastor [Reid] is a Bradley delegate."

Said 7th District Congressman Elijah E. Cummings: "Gore has proven by being with Clinton that he is already a friend of the African-American community. And he's a friend who's been there and has been fighting for us."

Paul Booker, 32, of Randallstown, was among the Gore supporters who gathered at an Inner Harbor restaurant last night. "I heard Gore speak at the National Black Caucus and I was moved," he said. "He was warm, open, down-to-earth and he spoke about issues we care about."

Independent voters

Bush overcame the fact that independent voters could vote in Maryland's Republican primary for the first time. Exit polls showed that they made up about 10 percent of the voters in the primary and went for McCain by more than a 2-to-1 margin.

David Hopkins, 52, a psychologist who lives north of Westminster in Carroll County, is an independent who took advantage of the decision -- backed by the party leadership that supported Bush -- to open the primary.

"I think the Republicans are going to regret that, because I think the independents will vote for McCain," Hopkins said. "I voted for McCain."

But those independents could not overcome the dominance Bush had with registered Republicans, who went for the Texas governor by a 2-to-1 margin.

"We made thousands and thousands of volunteer phone calls that showed him running 2- and 3-to-1 among Republican activists," said Ellen R. Sauerbrey, who headed Bush's campaign in Maryland. "Republicans were attracted to his message of less taxes and education reform."

She also hoped that the independents would support Bush in November. "The hope was that the people who took the time to vote could be identified as people who share a Republican philosophy," she said.

But independent Jesse Rivkin, 21, a student at the University of Maryland, College Park, picked McCain yesterday and will vote for Gore if it's a Bush-Gore race in the fall. "I prefer Bradley, but I'll vote against Bush no matter what," he said.

Non-party in Annapolis

The 50 McCain supporters who gathered at an Annapolis restaurant were as forlorn as their meager spread of cut vegetables and cheese cubes.

"I was convinced the Beatles couldn't make it. I was convinced Nixon would never resign. I'm no good at predicting," said 1st District Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest, one of the few of the state's elected Republicans to back McCain.

Bob Caldwell was a 1958 Naval Academy classmate of McCain who spent more than five years imprisoned in North Vietnam.

"It does look grim and it's always looked grim for John on more than one occasion," he said.

McCain supporters could only imagine what might have been had this been a totally open primary.

"I used to be an independent, but then I registered as a Democrat so I could vote in the Democratic primary," said June Fair, 77, voting at a fire station in Hampden. She voted for Gore, "but I would like to have voted for McCain. The primaries should be totally open."

John E. Jenkins, 53, expressed similar sentiments as he voted in the Democratic primary at Anne Arundel County's Bodkin Elementary School.

"I'm one of those crossovers," he said. "I would like Maryland to go to free crossover voting in primaries -- it's something they should have everywhere in the country. Truth be told, if I could have crossed over today, I would have voted for McCain."

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