But then, like an evangelist who's lulled the congregation into a quiet reverie by speaking in hushed tones, then startling them with a shout, Sauerbrey woke up her faithful supporters up with a volley of snappy phrases that show that if she loses this time, it won't be because she's too nice to mix it up.
Claiming that Maryland has fallen to 46th among the 50 states in economic prosperity, she said that the General Assembly enacted a 10 percent personal income-tax cut in 1997 only because voters had come close to giving her (and her plan for a 24 percent tax cut) a victory in 1994.
Maryland's schools have become "holding pens' instead of think tanks, where young thugs are armed with guns and knives instead of facts and figures, she said In her administration, she said, there would ber "zero tolerance" for such disruption and incivility. Nor would she forget teachers, saying that they would be adequately paid and given resources so they don't have to buy their own materials.
Taking aim at the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program - the so-called "report card" for schools - Sauerbrey said if that if educators can't share the test with parents, then they must be hiding something.
In that argument, she may be a bit off-base. If you share copies of the tests with parents every year, wouldn't the tests have to be rewritten annually at state expense? I'd rather see Sauerbrey concentrate on curbing the state education bureaucracy's inability to stop tinkering with tests and currciculum long enough to see what works and what doesn't.
In a refreshing move, Sauerbrey passed up the standard "lock-up-the-crooks" talk, saying instead she would like to see the state concentrate on occupying young people's imaginations before they get involved in crime.
"I'd rather prevent a crime than prosecute a criminal," she said.
On the issue of jobs, Sauerbrey said, "By any measurement, the current administration is failing us."
She pledged to rebuild Maryland economically, to make the state "as attactive to entrepreneurs as it is to sports team owners."
This last remark was one of the few allusions she made to problems the Glendening administration has had. The other issues - the pension deal Glendening got from Prince Georges County, the controversy over some of his fund-raisers - will no doubt be raised later. Tuesday's speech wasn't an all-out attack, just the opening skirmish in what promises to be an interesting campaign.
Maryland State Police Tpr. Richard Poffenberger of the Hagerstown barracks, the state's oldest trooper at age 62 with 37 years' service, would like to make it an even 40, even though state officials have told him he must retire now.
So says his pal Ron Milburn, the former mayor of Sharpsburg, who's starting a letter-writing campaign to win Poffenberger a reprieve. Send your letters of support to Ron Milburn, P.O. Box 549, Sharspburg, Md., 21782.
Margaret Comstock of Boonsboro called to say that the demolition work has begun on the remains of Hagerstown's House of Kobe Restauarant, destroyed in an arson fire. Comstock and others have set up a trust fund to help the owners rebuild, and if you're interested, you can direct the cash to Account No. 12443-5 at any Hagerstown Trust branch.
On Saturday, May 24 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at Elizabethtowne Gifts at 141 W. Franklin St., there'll be a photographic exhibition of local landmarks taken by Ron Lytle of Personal Touch Photgraphy. Lytle hopes to turn his photos into a series of postcards, the likes of which have always been popular with local collectors.
Bob Maginnis is Herald-Mail's editorial page editor.