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October 7, 2002

Can Kathleen Kennedy Townsend Lose?

John P. Snyder

For such an outnumbered group, Maryland Republicans have made things interesting every four years when the governor is elected. Recall in 1990 an unknown policy wonk named Bill Shepard took on the Schaefer machine and garnered nearly 40% of the vote. This infuriated the governor who felt he should be given the job for another four years by acclamation.

Mr. Shepards good showing no doubt led U.S Rep. Helen Bentley to seek the open seat in 1994. But she lost to Ellen Sauerbrey in the primary. The 1994 Glendening/Sauerbrey race for governor is a classic tale of a decided underdog who almost pulled out a win.

When more than one Maryland Republican gathers, even to this day, invariably they will play the "what if" game. I believe that had the Washington Post and Baltimore Sun been fair and unbiased they would have reported on the $100 million dollar deficit Parris Glendening left in Prince George’s County when it became clear, not one week after the election.

That interesting bit of news could have swayed the 5,900 or so votes need to turn the election. Democrats note that they were complacent and didn't turn out their base. It should also be noted that 1994 was the last election cycle that Democrats didn't demagogue the black vote to the fever pitch they have done in subsequent elections.

The rematch for Sauerbrey/Glendening in 1998 picked up where it ended in 1994, very close. Polls showed the race a dead heat throughout the campaign. All of the sudden, Ellen Sauerbrey became a racist and bigot. Awful rumors were spread about her in the black community. Some were told that Jim Crow laws and lynching would be instituted if she were elected.

Aided by well-financed "knock and drag" maneuvers, black people came out to elect Parris Glendening. By noon on election day the word was out. A 11- point Glendening win.

In the cozy, well-financed world of Maryland’s socialist ruling class of Democrats, the 1998 governors election and Al Gore’s subsequent blowout of George Bush in Maryland in the 2000 presidential election would certainly make Kathleen Kennedy Townsend’s election a formality. That would surely dampen the enthusiasm of even perennial candidate Ross Pierpont. They figured wrong.

Congressman Robert Ehrlich has the smarts, the money, the message and the timing to make him the unthinkable - the first Republican governor of Maryland to serve out his term since Theodore McKeldin in 1954-58.

Stayed tuned.

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