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Schaefer, 6-year-old back Tsongas


ANNAPOLIS -- Democratic presidential candidate Paul E. Tsongas was endorsed yesterday by Maryland's leading environmentalists, Gov. William Donald Schaefer and a 6-year-old named Stella Pelekanos.

The support from the environmentalists and the governor was expected, but the appearance by Stella was a bonus.

Mr. Tsongas was in the midst of a brief speech here at the Marriott Waterfront Hotel when he noticed the restless child in the front row.

"Does she want to come up here?" he asked the girl's aunt. She did. A moment later the winsome Stella, holding a small American flag, was in the candidate's arms.

"This is what this campaign is about," Mr. Tsongas said as the cameras crowded in.

The event's master of ceremonies was Sen. Gerald W. Winegrad, the Anne Arundel County Democrat who is the General Assembly's leading environmentalist, who praised the candidate's long-time commitment to clean air and clean water. He described the former Massachusetts senator as "a man of integrity," a man whose campaign goes beyond the usual "sound bites and rhetoric."

Governor Schaefer, who last week called Mr. Tsongas "my man," brought two of his top aides with him yesterday: Natural Resources Secretary Torrey C. Brown and Environment Secretary Robert Perciasepe.

Until yesterday, most of the endorsement support in Maryland had gone to Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton. And some might question the value of support from Mr. Schaefer, whose standing in the public opinion polls has fallen dramatically in recent months.

Observing that he had been endorsed by few politicians in New Hampshire, Mr. Tsongas told the governor with a chuckle: "You're ruining my record."

The candidate's endorsement yesterday by the environmental groups, however, seemed in keeping with his support in the Granite State, where he won the backing of similar groups.

And while his support for nuclear power hurt him the recent Maine caucuses, Senator Winegrad said he finds the senator's position sound and realistic.

"Until we move into the age of solar energy and alternative fuels, there has to be a bridge to the future," he said.

Mary Rosso, head of the Maryland Waste Coalition, called Mr. Tsongas "a guy who can put the economy back on the track -- and save the environment."

Mr. Tsongas said he wants to be a president who would demonstrate "a sense of reverence for the environment that God gave us." He charged President Bush with "astonishing cynicism" on environmental issues, a president who claims to be the "environmental president" but does nothing to merit the title.

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