Bush brings his message to Md.

GOP candidate raises at least $350,000

March 30, 2000|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,SUN STAFF

Continuing the push to replenish his campaign coffers, Texas Gov. George W. Bush raised at least $350,000 last night at an Inner Harbor event attended by hundreds of supporters and much of the Maryland Republican Party hierarchy.

The turnout was greater than organizers had predicted, with crowd estimates approaching 1,000 for a rally at the Hyatt Regency Inner Harbor hotel, where the two-part fund-raiser was held.

"When you get a crowd this big this early, we're going to be competitive in this state," Bush said of the night's turnout in highly Democratic Maryland.

Richard E. Hug, a Republican fund-raiser who is co-chairman of the Bush campaign in Maryland, was clearly pleased with the crowd.

"The last couple of days were unbelievable. People came out of the woodwork," Hug said. "We're going to carry this state for Bush."

Bush, the GOP's presumed nominee, delivered a strong stump speech, continuing his theme of "compassionate conservatism" as he touched on plans to cut taxes, simplify the tax code and strengthen the military, and urged a return to personal responsibility.

Taking aim at Vice President Al Gore, his likely opponent in November, he also pledged to return "integrity and honor" to the White House, alluding to Clinton administration scandals. "The people of this great state understand that the best way to start reform is to end the Clinton-Gore era," he said.

Bush also said he looked forward to debating Gore later this year, particularly on the issue of education, which allowed him to outline his plan, unveiled Tuesday, for a five-year, $5 billion federal program to teach poor children to read.

The reference to his plan offered him the opportunity to assure the conservative crowd, which generally favors local control of education. "I don't want to be the federal superintendent of schools," he said.

Bush has been making a concerted effort to raise money after spending much of the record $74 million he has raised so far on a tougher-than-expected primary race against Arizona Sen. John McCain.

Bush began his visit to Baltimore -- his third East Coast campaign stop of the day -- late in the afternoon at Baltimore-Washington International Airport with a youth rally attended by about 200 supporters, many of whom waved placards and red, white and blue pom-poms.

He proceeded by motorcade to the Hyatt Regency Inner Harbor hotel for two events -- a $1,000-a-ticket VIP reception followed by a $100-a-head rally in a ballroom.

Among those attending the fund-raiser were Henry A. Rosenberg Jr., chairman of Crown Central Petroleum Corp.; Kingdon Gould Jr., a developer and GOP fund-raiser who was President Richard M. Nixon's ambassador to Luxembourg; and James T. Brady, Gov. Parris N. Glendening's former economic development secretary.

Organizers estimated that $250,000 was raised for the Bush campaign and another $100,000 for the state party.

Supporters who had already given the legal maximum of $1,000 to the campaign were encouraged to contribute the same amount to Maryland Victory 2000, a Republican party account which will largely be used to promote Bush in the state.

Hug said that Bush has raised roughly $1.7 million from Marylanders, about $400,000 at a fund-raiser in Baltimore last July.

"Obviously, we're just thrilled to have him back in the state," said Ellen R. Sauerbrey, the GOP national committeewoman and co-chairwoman of the state Bush campaign. "There's nothing that will help the Republican Party to get rejuvenated than to get a good presidential campaign in the state -- and a Republican in the White House."

The Democrats have staged similar fund-raising forays recently. Two weeks ago, President Clinton came to Baltimore to help raise more than $500,000 for the Democratic National Committee at a $5,000-a-plate dinner at the Harbor Court Hotel.

Though GOP voters in Maryland are outnumbered by Democrats 2-1, Republican presidential candidates have sometimes carried the state. Bush's father, President George Bush, beat Democrat Michael S. Dukakis here in 1988, but lost to Clinton in 1992.

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