If Maryland Republicans hope to pull off the sort of election victories the GOP won in Virginia, New Jersey and New York City on Tuesday, the local political organization had better get its act together: There still is no Republican heavyweight candidate running for the United States Senate seat in next year's election.
Good campaigners for statewide offices are crucial for the state GOP. The party has a prominent and aggressive campaigner in the race for attorney general, former U.S. Attorney Richard D. Bennett. But the person viewed within the party as having the best shot at winning the governor's mansion, Anne Arundel County Executive Robert R. Neall, decided instead to bow out of politics entirely, and the candidate regarded as the GOP's next-best hope, Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, has yet to make up her mind.
That leaves two contenders for the gubernatorial nomination, Del. Ellen R. Sauerbrey and William S. Shepard. The two candidates have strong pockets of support within the party but neither is well known statewide. One of them may yet emerge as a strong gubernatorial contender by next fall. That's the hope, anyway of state party leaders.
Yet without a quality candidate for U.S. Senate, the rest of the GOP ticket will suffer. Early polling shows incumbent Democratic Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes to be well known though vulnerable to a challenge. But if Mr. Sarbanes is given the equivalent of a free ride, there won't be much, if any, coattail support from the top of the ticket.
Too many members of this state's business community have voiced alarm at the liberal voting habits of Maryland's two senators without doing anything to promote top-grade Republican challengers. That is the case this year, too. Why aren't business leaders recruiting the best and the brightest politicians to enter the Republican race for Senate? Why aren't they out raising money for what surely would be a very costly race? Complaining isn't enough. It's time for business leaders to become politically active.
If state party leaders hope to hold onto the offices they picked up in 1990 in the Baltimore suburbs and to make inroads in the General Assembly, they need a powerhouse statewide ticket. At this point, they don't have one. In fact, they aren't even close. Maryland voters deserve better from the local Republican Party.