Call it the continued wooing of Bobby Neall.
More than 300 supporters of Anne Arundel County Executive Robert R. Neall shelled out $250 apiece last night on behalf of the could-be, might-be Republican candidate for governor in 1994.
Or perhaps Mr. Neall will merely use that money to run for re-election as county executive next year.
The problem is, he says he still is months away from deciding what he's running for next year.
At last night's event an Annapolis hotel, Mr. Neall was introduced by state Sen. John A. Cade, an Anne Arundel County Republican who announced tongue-in-cheek that Mr. Neall would "make a momentous announcement."
But Mr. Neall, true to from, said, "The announcement tonight is that there is no announcement." He said he was at "a crossroads" and that he could return to a private sector job, seek re-election as county executive "or run for some other office." He said he intends to travel the state and "talk to folks" for eight weeks or so and hopes "to know what I'm going to do when I sit down to eat my crabs on Labor Day weekend."
Many in the crowd, including state GOP Chairman Joyce L. Terhes, said they were disappointed.
"He's the most qualified," said state Sen. John W. Derr, a Republican who drove in from Frederick County, "and he has the most potential to attract Democratic and Republican votes. It'd be my guess that the majority of people here want him to run for governor."
The 44-year-old first-term county executive has been making the rounds like a candidate, attending about 14 Republican Lincoln Day dinners on the Eastern Shore, and in Western and Southern Maryland.
But the uncertainty has left some Republicans a bit antsy. They say 1994 could be a big year for Republicans in Maryland but contend they are getting off to a slow start because of Mr. Neall's hesitancy and that of 2nd District Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, who also has been toying with the idea of running for governor.
"What's [Mr. Neall] fooling around for?" said a frustrated Republican activist who asked not to be identified. "He's been the obvious favorite, or the one touted as the favorite, for well over a year. The Republican Party is really hungry for a candidate that is going to put himself or herself on the line."
Mr. Neall's hesitancy has not kept two other GOP hopefuls from launching their own campaigns. They are William S. Shepard, a retired foreign service officer from Montgomery County who won 40 percent of the vote against Gov. William Donald Schaefer in 1990 and House Minority Leader Ellen R. Sauerbrey, a four-term state delegate from Baltimore County.
Ms. Sauerbrey, who joined the race this month, was instrumental in positioning the small Republican caucus in the House this year as a countervailing voice to the chamber's entrenched Democratic leadership on tax and budget issues.
She already has lined up former congressman and Prince George's County Executive Larry Hogan Sr. and former Republican National Committee Chairman Bill Brock, a former U.S. senator from Tennessee who now lives in Maryland, as co-chairmen of her campaign committee. More than a dozen Republican state legislators also have signed on as supporters.
Ms. Sauerbrey and Mr. Neall agree that the Republican nominee may have to raise as much as $2 million. Ms. Sauerbrey has raised about $65,000; Mr. Neall, before last night, had raised about $135,000.