Brock nearing a formal bid to unseat Sarbanes


WASHINGTON -- Preparing to formally announce a bid next month to unseat Maryland Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, former Tennessee Sen. William E. Brock has opened a campaign headquarters in Annapolis and filed an official statement of candidacy here.

A resident of Annapolis since 1985, the 63-year-old Republican announced last month that he had formed an exploratory committee to examine his prospects for challenging Mr. Sarbanes, a Democrat, now in his third Senate term.

"We've opened an office and are starting the process of putting together a campaign," Fred T. Asbell, Mr. Brock's campaign director, said yesterday.

The exploratory phase of the campaign is over, and Mr. Brock will probably make his formal announcement of candidacy late next month, he added.

Mr. Brock became the fourth Senate candidate from Maryland to file the Federal Election Commission statement, joining Republicans Ruthann Aron of Montgomery County and state Del. C. Ronald Franks of Queen Anne's County, and Mr. Sarbanes, the lone Democrat in the race.

Mr. Brock served six years in the House before defeating former Tennessee Sen. Albert Gore, Vice President Al Gore's father, in 1970. He lost his bid for re-election in 1976, the same year that Mr. Sarbanes went to the Senate. He then became chairman of the Republican National Committee in the wake of Watergate and was credited with resuscitating a party flat on its back.

He served in the Reagan administration as international trade representative and secretary of labor.

He later formed a consulting firm, the Brock Group, which received about $934,000 from the Mexican government to work for approval of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Mr. Asbell said that Mr. Brock is severing all ties with the firm.

For months, Maryland and national Republican Party officials searched for a heavyweight candidate who could take on Mr. Sarbanes.

Rep. Constance A. Morella of Montgomery County was courted for much of 1993 by national party figures such as Senate Republican Minority Leader Robert Dole and Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas, but she adamantly refused to take on the incumbent.

Mr. Brock was traveling yesterday and unavailable for comment. In an interview three weeks ago, he made it clear that he would campaign as an outsider trying to unseat an entrenched incumbent.

Despite the visibility his years as a national GOP official have given him, he claimed he wasn't sure he could match Mr. Sarbanes in fund raising.

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