Campaign '98: The Message is the Middle

The Democrats' Big Tuesday -- with Gov. Parris Glendening coasting and Janet Owens punishing Anne Arundel County Executive John Gary -- isn't all that surprising.

After all, nine times out of 10 voters cast their lot with moderation. They don't feel comfortable with extremist voting, like Ellen Sauerbrey's 16-year General Assembly record on the environment and many matters. And they're put off by peculiar behavior: Gary was a competent executive in many ways, but voters couldn't abide his prickliness and his obsession with battling school administrators.

We saw it around the country: In North Carolina, U.S. Sen. Lauch Faircloth (R), a Jesse Helms clone, can return to tending his factory hog farm. In California, a boring, middle-of-the-road Democrat named Gray Davis won that state's governorship over Republican Dan Lungren, who was a far more exciting and attractive candidate but too conservative.

Nationally, it was a phenomenal election for pro-environmental candidates. The Sierra Club was 19­4 in races where it paid for advertising, including support for Republican U.S. Rep. Connie Morella of Maryland, according to a tally by Greenwire. The Sierra Club's endorsement no doubt helped AA County Council member John Klocko, a Republican, coast to a second term.

Back in Maryland, loyalty is another trait voters admire. That's probably why state Sen. Ed Middlebrooks, the Democrat-turned-Republican, lost his seat to Glen Burnie Councilman James DeGrange. That's partly why the political careers of would-be Anne Arundel executive Diane Evans, former Annapolis Mayor Dennis Callahan and Anne Arundel County council member Thomas W. Redmond lay in ruins.

You'll hear a lot of "Monica" talk from the chattering class analyzing this election. But this election was less about Bill Clinton than about moderation and keeping things under control.

That was the theme in Calvert County, where Republicans demanding slower development bucked national trends and captured the county council.

The Calvert results were satisfying for a Republican Party clobbered in many ways, not the least of which was Glendening's 56­44 percent shellacking of Sauerbrey. Republicans we talked to had a nagging sense that they wasted a rare opportunity to unseat a weakened Democrat governor.

Nonetheless, Republicans continue to out-register Democrats. The GOP established some working coalitions with minority voters that can endure. And surely, they learned once and for that the road to victory is from the center, not the far-right.

Maryland Republicans grooming themselves for bigger things need to remember as much when they cast votes in the General Assembly or their county councils on growth and Chesapeake Bay issues dear to Maryland voters.

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Volume VI Number 44
November 5-11, 1998
New Bay Times

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