Wall Put Sauerbrey on Path: East Germany Visit Provoked GOP Hopeful
Redmon, Jeremy, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
* Fourth in a series on candidates for Maryland governor.
ANNAPOLIS - A visit to East Germany in 1968 helped form Ellen R. Sauerbrey's core conservative values and fuel her desire to become governor of Maryland.
She saw a repressive East German government reduce her husband's aunt to scratching out a meager existence on her hands and knees in a small garden. The same government confiscated her father-in-law's house to shelter Czechoslovakian refugees.
"The day we left East Germany, we went through the checkpoint, and the gate came down behind us," Mrs. Sauerbrey says, recalling how she and her husband, Wilmer, passed through the Berlin Wall to West Germany.
"We took a deep breath, and we were so relieved to be out in the free country again and know we weren't going to be trapped behind that Wall. It was like breathing freedom."
More than three decades later, Mrs. Sauerbrey, 60, wants to reduce Maryland's state government, make it less burdensome on taxpayers and cut state income taxes.
And the former Republican leader of the Maryland House of Delegates is ready for a rematch with the incumbent Democrat, Gov. Parris N. Glendening, who only narrowly defeated her four years ago.
National Republican leaders believe the Maryland governor's mansion is winnable in the Nov. 3 general election. Party heavyweights have dropped by to help Mrs. Sauerbrey raise money, among them House Speaker Newt Gingrich and New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman.
That has irked her opponent in the GOP primary Sept. 15, Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker. Mr. Ecker, 69, says his two terms running the county government gives him management experience Mrs. Sauerbrey lacks.
Mr. Glendening's two remaining challengers in the Democratic primary are Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann and Davidsonville physician Terry McGuire.
Most political observers expect Mr. Glendening and Mrs. Sauerbrey to face each other again.
Mrs. Sauerbrey has gone on the attack in recent weeks, criticizing the governor for financing construction of the Ravens' football stadium in Baltimore with $200 million in taxpayers' money that could have been spent better on public education; bashing him for proposing that the state build a new horse racetrack with public funds to prop up the racing industry; and attacking him for neglecting public schools and leaving a budget deficit when he was Prince George's County executive. * * *
Although proud of her conservative values, Mrs. Sauerbrey says she would not attempt drastic changes in current law if elected. Though she opposes abortion and gun control, for instance, she says she wouldn't try to ban either.
She says she is realistic: In polls, most Maryland voters say they favor legalized abortion and gun-control laws. Besides that, Democrats control the state legislature and could make life difficult for her if she attempted wholesale changes.
"I recognize that you have to choose your battles," she says.
Mr. Glendening accuses her of flip-flopping on the issues.
"She spent her whole career against women's right to choose, and now is no longer going to fight on that issue," the governor said recently.
These days, Mrs. Sauerbrey is trying to reassure undecided voters by sharing more of herself and her family life.
Ellen Richmond Sauerbrey talks about growing up in a Baltimore row house as part of a middle-class family. Her father, Edgar Richmond, was a steelworker, union member and Democrat. To keep food on the table during a strike, he drove a cab.
Her mother, Ethel, took a job as a secretary when her father was misdiagnosed with multiple sclerosis, thinking she would have to provide for the family.
And there's this revelation: In high school, the Richmonds' daughter Ellen was nicknamed "Winkie" - after her unconscious habit of winking her right eye when she smiles. "They called me `Winkie' because I would wink at the boys," she says.
Her parents sent her to dance and modeling school when she was a teen to teach her poise. "They thought I had three left feet," Mrs. Sauerbrey recalls.
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She decided to go into politics in 1979 after she and her husband, whom she married in 1952, found out they could not have children.
The couple had spent several years restoring their antebellum home in Baltimore County in anticipation of a baby. She knows she would have been happy as a homemaker and would not have run for governor if she had children.
Mrs. Sauerbrey invariably invokes the name of the late Barry Goldwater, the U.S. senator from Arizona who was the GOP's presidential nominee in 1964. She says his conservative values - reducing the size of government, defending constitutional rights - shaped her ideology. She volunteered in the Goldwater campaign in Maryland, distributing fliers door to door.
Mrs. Sauerbrey knows she must soften her image for two reasons. Mr. Glendening is trying to paint her as a "right-wing extremist" who will hurt public schools and blow a hole in the state budget with massive tax cuts.
And she is still living down the "Sour Grapes Sauerbrey" nickname she got tagged with in 1995 after she sued Mr. Glendening and the state Board of Elections over her belief that election fraud occurred in 1994 - including votes "cast" by prisoners and the dead.
A judge upheld the results of the election, which Mr. Glendening won by fewer than 6,000 votes out of 1.4 million cast. Mrs. Sauerbrey continued to contest the results, a move she regrets. Now she won't talk about the court ruling.
"She alleged voter fraud and couldn't prove it," says Carol A. Arscott, a former political adviser. "There were wild charges made, and none of them were substantiated. It left a bad taste in the mouths of the electorate, including people who had supported her."
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And so today, Mrs. Sauerbrey is not shy about showing the personal traits that give depth to the serious-minded partisan whose leadership built the state's pliant GOP into a minority force to be reckoned with in the House of Delegates.
She represented Baltimore County in the House from 1979 to 1994. As House minority leader in the last eight years of her tenure, she dumped her predecessors' go-along-to-get-along approach to working with Democrats.
She repeatedly fought Democrats on a wide array of issues with only 24 Republicans to back her up in the 141-member House, and she lost many battles. But colleagues say she set the tone for today's more aggressive, conservative GOP leadership in the House. Colleagues also credit her with helping elect 17 more Republicans.
In 1994, Mrs. Sauerbrey surprised the pundits and introduced herself to many voters by winning the Republican nomination for governor in an upset of Rep. Helen D. Bentley of Baltimore County.
She campaigned on cutting the state income tax by 24 percent, an issue she echoes in this year's campaign. She may have lost narrowly to Mr. Glendening, the three-term Prince George's County executive, but she carried every major political subdivision of the state except the three most populous - the city of Baltimore and Montgomery and Prince George's counties.
Friends know Ellen Sauerbrey as warm and funny - nowhere near being an extremist.
"She feels much more at home at a backyard picnic on the Eastern Shore than she does at a $500-a-plate cocktail party in downtown Baltimore," says John H. Lloyd, her former campaign manager.
At a recent parade in Germantown, Mrs. Sauerbrey is in her element. The candidate jogs down the street, trying to shake every hand in sight, a small army of supporters marching behind her.
Perspiring and red-faced, she reaches the end of the parade and greets an unemployed Gaithersburg woman. She listens as Margie A. George, 48, tells how her brother was struck and killed by a motorist last year on Montgomery Village Avenue.
Before they part, Mrs. Sauerbrey hugs the woman.
"I felt when she embraced me, she really felt what I was feeling," Ms. George says.
And, she adds, she plans to vote for Ellen Sauerbrey.
ELLEN R. SAUERBREY
Candidate for Maryland governor
BORN: Sept. 9, 1937, in Baltimore
RESIDENCE: Baldwin in Baltimore County
PARTY AFFILIATION: Republican
EDUCATION: Bachelor of arts in English and biology, Western Maryland College, 1959
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Biology teacher, Baltimore County, 1959-1969; U.S. Census Bureau manager for Baltimore, Harford and Carroll counties, 1970; press secretary, researcher for former Maryland Delegate George Price, Republican, 1973-1977; member, Maryland House of Delegates, 1979-1994; House minority leader, 1986-1994; Republican nominee for governor, 1994
FAMILY: Husband, Wilmer
ON THE ISSUES
Here's how Maryland Republican gubernatorial hopeful Ellen R. Sauerbrey stands on key issues in Maryland:
TAXES: She supports cutting state income taxes by another 14 percent, for a total of 24 percent, saving taxpayers roughly $960 million. Influenced by her popular proposal in 1994, the General Assembly already has voted for a cut of 10 percent, saving taxpayers about $400 million. Under her plan, a family of four earning $40,000 a year would save $706 a year; a family of four earning $100,000 would save $739.
CRIME: She wants to require violent criminals to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences, which would reduce the number of repeat offenders.
GAMBLING: She opposes slot-machine gambling but leaves the door open if no other solution can be found to boost revenues for the state's ailing horse racing industry.
DRUGS: She supports building more treatment centers for first-time offenders and allowing public schools to test children in kindergarten through 12th grade for drug use, with permission of parents.
GUN RIGHTS: She opposes the state law prohibiting the purchase of more than one gun a month but would not act to repeal it. She would veto any new gun-control legislation.
ABORTION: She opposes existing state and federal laws that allow abortion but would not try to repeal them. She would sign legislation banning so-called "partial-birth" abortions.
EDUCATION: She wants to require reading teachers to use phonics as the primary method of instruction in first through fourth grades. She supports school vouchers.…
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Publication information: Article title: Wall Put Sauerbrey on Path: East Germany Visit Provoked GOP Hopeful. Contributors: Redmon, Jeremy - Author. Newspaper title: The Washington Times (Washington, DC). Publication date: August 4, 1998. Page number: 4. © 2009 The Washington Times LLC. COPYRIGHT 1998 Gale Group.
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