Former Tennessee Sen. William E. Brock, the Maryland GOP's early best bet to unseat Democratic Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, took to the road yesterday to announce his candidacy and return to the political game.
Vowing to get tough on crime, reform welfare and bring more jobs to Maryland, Mr. Brock, 63, kicked off his Senate campaign with five appearances statewide, including one in Baltimore that was well attended by the Republican faithful.
With a hint of a Tennessee drawl, Mr. Brock stressed his links to Maryland, leading off his remarks by saying that "this is my home, my children's home" -- a clear effort to deflect inevitable criticism of him as a "carpetbagger."
"It's true I wasn't born here," said Mr. Brock, who moved to Annapolis in 1985.
"I am a Marylander by choice, and I'm proud of that fact."
He did not name Mr. Sarbanes, the three-term, senior Maryland senator, but did say, "I'm not running against a person; I'm running for Maryland, for the chance to make a difference."
He joins a field in the GOP Senate primary that includes Ruthann Aron, a Montgomery County planning board member in her first run for office; state Del. C. Ronald Franks, a Queen Anne's County dentist; William T. S. Bricker, a Towson lawyer and former MVA administrator who unsuccessfully challenged Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, D-3rd, in 1992; Ross Z. Pierpont, a retired surgeon in his 13th campaign for political office; and Frank Nethken, former mayor of Cumberland.
Mr. Brock said he was not going "to play the blame game in this campaign," yet it was clear that he is hoping to capitalize on the anti-incumbent sentiment that resurfaced in the 1992 presidential campaign by suggesting answers to problems that have not been addressed by incumbents.
At one point, assailing the effects of crime on communities and recommending "truth-in-sentencing" -- no-parole -- for criminals, he said, "You better believe . . . I think we can do better."
George Beall, the former U.S. attorney for Maryland and a well-known lawyer from a very political family, introduced Mr. Brock to a packed room at the Stouffer Harborplace Hotel downtown.
Mr. Beall was quite pointed in targeting Mr. Sarbanes during his opening remarks, saying that Mr. Brock's "willingness to listen" contrasts sharply with the "institutional deafness" of Washington. Mr. Beall complained of "our senior U.S. senator" who has been "too long in office, listening to himself . . . and insiders inside the [Washington] Beltway."
Mr. Brock, an old political hand with a firm, yet folksy style, was flanked by his family in Baltimore.
Mr. Brock also made announcements yesterday in Rockville, Frederick, Hagerstown and Annapolis.
He has targeted the Eastern Shore today, with stops scheduled in Easton, Salisbury and Ocean City.
Mr. Brock was elected to the House of Representatives in 1962. Eight years later, he defeated Sen. Albert Gore Sr., father of Vice President Al Gore. After losing a re-election bid in 1976, Mr. Brock served as the chairman of the Republican National Committee and won high marks for rebuilding the GOP after Watergate.
President Ronald Reagan then appointed him U.S. trade representative and labor secretary.
Mr. Brock subsequently started a Washington consulting firm, the Brock Group, which has worked for a number of foreign governments. He resigned from the firm Jan. 1 to begin mounting the Senate campaign.