EASTON -- Former U.S. Labor Secretary William E. Brock is giving serious consideration to challenging Democrat Paul S. Sarbanes for his Senate seat next year, Republican Party sources said here yesterday.
"I really think he's very interested," said Joyce L. Terhes, state party chair.
A well-connected Montgomery County Republican, who asked not to be identified, said: "I think he's very close to doing it. . . . I'd be shocked if he didn't run."
But Alex Ray, an Eastern Shore-based political consultant close to Mr. Brock, insisted the decision-making process was not that far along.
"I think he's giving it some serious consideration," said Mr. Ray, who worked for Mr. Brock when he chaired the Republican National Committee from 1977 to 1980. "There really has been an outpouring of people urging him to run. I don't think it's a done deal."
Mr. Brock was not ready to clarify his position. "I'm certainly interested in seeing that this state be effectively represented," he said in a brief interview. "Whether that involves me directly in a candidate situation or in some other capacity remains to be seen."
This year, Mr. Brock -- who has lived in Maryland since the mid-1980s -- considered a campaign for governor but eventually decided against it.
Mr. Brock, who will turn 63 on Tuesday, was a congressman and senator from Tennessee. He was defeated in his 1976 Senate re-election bid by Democrat James Sasser.
As RNC chairman, Mr. Brock was widely credited with refitting the national party machinery financially and organizationally in the post-Watergate years.
During the Reagan years, he served in two Cabinet-level posts. As U.S. trade representative, he negotiated trade agreements with Canada and Israel and proposed an initiative that became the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Later, as Mr. Reagan's labor secretary, he improved the administration's ties to organized labor, which had been virtually nonexistent under his predecessor, Raymond A. Donovan.
If he decides to enter Maryland's Senate race, he will no doubt face carpetbagger charges from Mr. Sarbanes, a three-term incumbent from Baltimore who has close ties to labor. Mr. Brock has, however, put down Maryland roots.
He moved to Annapolis in 1985 and for a time before that lived in Montgomery County. In recent years, he has been active in state party affairs. He is co-chair of House of Delegates minority leader Ellen R. Sauerbrey's gubernatorial campaign committee.
He was the featured speaker here yesterday as part of a weekend training session for novice candidates and fledgling political operatives conducted under the auspices of the state Republican Party.
Rumors circulated in state GOP circles last week that three well-known Republicans -- ex-Sen. J. Glenn Beall Jr. and former U.S. Education Secretary William Bennett, in addition to Mr. Brock -- might be open to recruitment for the Senate race. Sources familiar with state politics have said in recent days that Mr. Brock is the only one to display serious interest.