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Rehrmann checks out

August 11, 1998

Eileen Rehrmann's decision to quit Maryland's Democratic gubernatorial primary was a surprise only because of its timing on Monday. Despite appearances around the state, endorsements by two high-profile Democratic leaders and some fancy full-color mailings, the Harford County executive just couldn't make headway in the polls.

Rehrmann's campaign was hampered from the start because it was well-known that she'd originally planned to run for comptroller, and withdrew only after the well-loved Louis Goldstein reversed himself and announced he would run again.

And although being endorsed by Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke and Prince George's County Executive Wayne Curry may have brought her some support from black voters, it probably didn't help with other Marylanders who've noticed that every time Baltimore gets $1 in state funds, city officials whine that it should have been $1.50 instead.

Perceptive Marylanders may also remember that although P.G. County also complained the amount of state funding it got this year, officials there are short of cash in part because they can't persuade their own citizens to lift a property-tax cap.

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And finally, Rehrmann has the same problem as incumbent Gov. Parris Glendening - a dry, business-like personality that doesn't seem to inspire any warm feelings among voters.

What does Rehrmann's departure man? Unless Howard County Executive Charles Ecker's campaign catches fire, it will be a rematch for Glendening and 1994 GOP opponent Ellen Sauerbrey.

That means two issues will dominate the race - tax cuts and slot machines. In 1997, Glendening went along a 10 percent tax cut phased in over five years, less than half the cut Sauerbrey said was possible. But this past February the General Assembly's own fiscal analysts estimated that, due in part to that cut, the state budget will fall $539 million short of expenses by 2003.

Slots promise a way to close the gap without raising taxes, but gambling's social costs usually aren't figured into the rosy revenue estimates. Even with one less candidate, there's still going to be plenty to talk about during this campaign.

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