As a German oompah band played in the background, Del. Ellen R. Sauerbrey used her 12th annual Oktoberfest fund-raiser last night to rally support for her bid to be the GOP candidate in next year's election for governor.
Clad in a traditional German dress and apron, Mrs. Sauerbrey played host to several hundred supporters at the Towson American Legion hall. She drove home her message of "breaking the mold" by shrinking the size of government, reducing taxes and encouraging free enterprise.
Mrs. Sauerbrey, the 57-year-old House minority leader from Baltimore County, expressed frustration at the way state government is run and ticked off a list of reasons she entered the race in June.
"The state has not shown very much fiscal discipline, the economy is weak, jobs are decreasing, the streets are becoming less and less safe," she said. Welfare programs are discouraging people from working, Mrs. Sauerbrey added, and the public education system is sadly wanting. Although she is considered by many a long shot for the party's nomination, she remains firm in her resolve to represent the Republican Party in the general election.
"Maryland citizens are ready for a change," she said. "People are not going to vote for a Republican because they're a better manager of the existing system, but people are going to vote for a Republican who's going to change the system."
Mrs. Sauerbrey said she did not know how much money her campaign had raised to date, but estimated last night's $50-a-head event brought in at least $25,000, mostly from
constituents who also have attended in the past.
But that kind of money is a far cry from the $3 million that is thought to be necessary for a successful statewide campaign.
"One of the criticisms of Ellen's candidacy we hear is that she can't raise money," said Carol L. Hirschburg, the campaign's finance director.
"But what the people who say that mean is that she doesn't have the old-boy fund-raising network behind her," Ms. Hirschburg said. "And I can't go along with the fact that just because she's not tied into the old-boy network, she can't mount a successful campaign. . . .
"We may not be doing this in the traditional way, but we are raising money and are going to raise a lot more," Ms. Hirschburg said. "In the end, we will owe our allegiance to a lot of people who believe in the things that Ellen stands for, instead of being beholden to the usual group of so-called movers and shakers."
Ms. Hirschburg pointed to business leaders "who support her on principle" as one area from which the campaign hopes to draw.
One of those leaders is B. Larry Jenkins, the chairman and president of Monumental Life Insurance Co., who agreed to chair the campaign's finance committee because he finds Mrs. Sauerbrey "a very pro-business politician.
"She doesn't promise everyone everything, and she votes the way she talks," Mr. Jenkins said.
Mrs. Sauerbrey is one of only two Republicans who have announced their candidacy for governor in 1994. The other is William S. Shepard, a retired foreign service officer who led the GOP ticket in 1990.
But Anne Arundel County Executive Robert R. Neall -- whose campaign has raised more than $200,000 so far -- named a 26-member committee of statewide business and political leaders Sept. 18 to explore a "possible" run for the State House that supporters believe is now a virtual certainty.
U.S. Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, from Maryland's 2nd District, said yesterday she still hasn't made up her mind about whether to run for governor or seek another term in Congress.
"About two hours ago I had two people call me up and beg me not to leave Washington -- and about two hours before that, I had people begging me to run for governor," Mrs. Bentley said.
"It's the begging that's killing me."