Campaign notes

July 26, 1998

A new Mason-Dixon poll released last week shows Michael Steele has taken an early lead in the battle for the GOP nomination for Maryland comptroller over 1994 nominee Timothy R. Mayberry, of Boonsboro.

But with three-quarters of voters unaware of either candidate, the race is wide open.

"I clearly have to continue to work on name identification," said Steele, chairman of the Prince George's County Republican Party. "You can't meet everybody. You have to look for venues that have the biggest impact."

The poll, which surveyed 847 registered voters, including 267 likely Republican primary voters, gave Steele 10 percent of the votes over Mayberry's 6 percent.

But Mayberry said it is far too long before the September primary to be concerned about polls. Furthermore, he challenged the validity of the polling methods, which he said focused too heavily on voters in Prince George's, where Steele is best-known.


The poll shows former governor William Donald Schaefer with a huge lead over his Democratic primary opponents and suggests he would handily defeat any of his lesser-known Republican foes.

But the survey also indicates possible weaknesses. Schaefer draws a negative opinion from 34 percent of the voters and only gets support from half of the voters in a hypothetical matchup with Steele, even though Steele's name is familiar to only 24 percent of the voters.

"I was very encouraged to only be down 50 to 31, which isn't bad," said Steele, who is counsel to the Arlington, Va.-based Mills Corp. "It says a lot about his strength going into this election and it shows I have an opportunity."

The poll shows Steele would fare better against Schaefer in the general election than Mayberry. But Mayberry, an accountant, said he thinks Steele's experience as a GOP activist will make it harder to win support from Democrats in the actual election.

Mayberry also objected to the polling company's analysis that suggests that shunning Steele, who is black, could create racial problems for the Republicans.

"That makes me sick," he said.

Both candidates acknowledged that gubernatorial front-runner Ellen R. Sauerbrey's endorsement helped Steele.

But Mayberry said he faced a similar challenge during his last run for comptroller, when GOP gubernatorial front-runner Helen Delich Bentley endorsed one of his opponents.

"It's sort of like '94 all over again," he said.

Voters mixed on slots

Last week's Mason-Dixon poll contained a number of other interesting results. Among them:

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* " NATURALSIZEFLAG="0" ALIGN="BOTTOM"> Gov. Parris N. Glendening has made slow, but steady improvement in his standing with the voters. His job performance was rated as good or excellent by 43 percent of the voters, his highest mark ever.

Nearly all of the gain comes from an increase among women and minorities.

Voters also favored Glendening over Sauerbrey by a margin of 48 percent to 41 percent, with 11 percent undecided. That is up from a 45 percent to 41 percent lead the governor had in April.

Still, Glendening is viewed favorably by only 37 percent of the voters, and he loses to Sauerbrey in every part of the state except for Baltimore and Montgomery and Prince George's counties.

One of his weakest regions is Western Maryland, where the governor loses to Sauerbrey by 53 percent to 36 percent.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* " NATURALSIZEFLAG="0" ALIGN="BOTTOM"> Maryland voters remain divided over whether slot machines should be allowed at the state's horse-racing tracks, with 44 percent in favor and 46 percent opposed.

The poll suggests that the issue could help Glendening, a strong opponent of slots. That's because opponents are far more likely to consider slots an important issue than those who favor the machines.

There is a large gender gap on the issue. While men favor slots by 51 percent to 40 percent, women overwhelmingly oppose them, 52 percent to 37 percent.

Judges gain backing from Bar

The Washington County Bar Association is backing the candidacy of the two county Circuit Court judges seeking election.

Judges W. Kennedy Boone III and Donald E. Beachley were "overwhelmingly found qualified" to continue serving on the Circuit Court bench, the organization said in a statement.

That declaration came as the result of a bar association ballot taken July 13.

"Based upon the results of that ballot, the Washington County Bar Association is pleased to announce that it actively supports the candidacy of Judge Beachley and Judge Boone in the upcoming election," the statement said.

Both Boone and Beachley were appointed last year to fill judgeship vacancies by Gov. Parris N. Glendening but they face election to a full 15-year-term in office.

Also running for one of the two judgeship seats is Hagerstown attorney Gregory C. Bannon. Bannon said he was not surprised he was not found "qualified" because the bar association only considered sitting judges in its ballot.

"I don't think it means a whole lot," Bannon said.

Bannon added he was deemed qualified to be a judge by the bar association two years ago when he unsuccessfully sought an appointment to the bench.

Fund-raiser nets $3,500

House of Delegates candidate Christopher B. Shank, a Republican seeking the seat in District 2B, held a fund-raiser July 19, raising more than $3,500 at the Chewsville Community Center.

Shank said he sold 140 tickets, at $25 each, for the event.

"I was very pleased with the turnout and the support," he said.

- Guy Fletcher and Brendan Kirby

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