Women running for governor hold their own in fund raising


The good ol' boys of the 1920 Maryland General Assembly had the chance to carve out a piece of history for the Free State by ratifying the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution -- two sentences that gave women the vote.

But instead of being the 36th state to offer its blessing -- and push ratification over the top -- they killed the measure early in the legislative session, chortling up their sleeves.

On the last night of the session, in fact, the members broke out in song, ending their impromptu Sine Die concert with a rousing rendition of "Good Night, Ladies."

Well, the yuk stops here.

Now, 74 years later, the boys are paying a little closer, and more serious, attention to the other gender.

The state of Maryland has three women running for governor, another whose name is being tossed about as a late-entry possibility and a handful of others being mentioned as lieutenant governor material.

"I think the momentum of women influencing public policy -- whether it be putting more women in office or becoming more active in advocacy groups -- has picked up in the last 10 years," said Millie Tyssowski, chairwoman of the Baltimore City Commission for Women and former president of the nonpartisan League of Women Voters of Maryland.

"Part of it is that you have to work your way up, so that's part of the reason there have been fewer women governor candidates," Ms. Tyssowski said.

A cursory check of the files shows that a Republican feminist named Helen Elizabeth Brown seems to have been the first woman to announce a gubernatorial bid -- in 1950. Though she picked up a few serious endorsements early, she finally settled for the attorney general's slot on the GOP ticket that year with Theodore R. McKeldin. He won; she didn't.

To date, only Louise Gore, the GOP's gubernatorial candidate who lost to incumbent Democratic Gov. Marvin Mandel, appears to have actually run the race for the State House -- 20 years ago.

This year's gubernatorial crop includes state Sen. Mary H. Boergers, a Democrat from Montgomery County, and two Republicans, 2nd District Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, and Maryland House Minority Leader Del. Ellen R. Sauerbrey of Baltimore County.

All have been successful enough so far in raising money to be credible competition and all could benefit further with an influx of bucks from the political action committees set up by Democratic and Republian women for female candidates.

Of the three women, Ms. Boergers stands to gain the most from the women's PACs.

At noon today, the largest of those PACs, EMILY's List, is expected to throw its support behind Ms. Boergers -- a nod that could mean hundreds of thousands of dollars to the campaign, money that probably will be used to buy television time for pre-primary commercials.

Ellen R. Malcolm, the founder of EMILY's List, is scheduled to meet the press in downtown Baltimore -- in front of the Woman's Industrial Exchange at Charles and Pleasant Streets -- to announce her organization's support of Ms. Boergers.

EMILY's List -- EMILY is an acronym for Early Money Is Like Yeast -- has become an increasingly important player in Democratic campaigns nationally. The group has raised about $4 million for campaigns this year, an amount that is just a portion of what EMILY could make available to candidates, because of the PAC-honored tradition of "bundling."

Under the bundling scheme, members of the organization are asked to match their contributions to the PAC with checks made out to candidates recommended by the group. That allows the PAC to deliver a bundle of checks to the selected political aspirants.

Ms. Boergers could also get the support of the fledgling Harriet's List, a Maryland PAC modeled on EMILY's List, if that group can right itself, after months of debate among members over whether to throw support behind local candidates or to include statewide candidates, as well.

That group, too, plans to use bundling -- which is legal under federal and state election laws -- to help fill campaign coffers of selected candidates.

GOP professional women have weighed in with their state PAC, Join RSVP (Republicans to Secure Victory in Public Office Inc.), which has scheduled a fund-raiser later this month.

Mrs. Bentley, who seems to adopted "Silence is Golden" as her campaign strategy as she enjoys an early lead over her party opposition with a 4-1 margin in polls, has managed to corral the support of big-money contributors to the campaigns of Gov. William Donald Schaefer.

That group includes Baltimore builder Henry J. Knott, H & S Bakery king John Paterakis and Louis J. Grasmick, the lumber business owner whose wife, state Education Secretary Nancy S. Grasmick, is the fourth woman to be mentioned as a possible gubernatorial candidate.

But Mrs. Grasmick, a Democrat from Baltimore County, probably is watching the time to launch a successful campaign before the primary slip by.

Mrs. Sauerbrey, who has swum against the Democratic tide as House minority leader since 1987, has captured the state's hard-line Republicans in her camp, as well as a number of state elected and party officials, and won the support of some national party mainstreamers.

"The kinds of issues that women have presented as their platform are generally issues that all the public embraces now," said Patty Pollard, president of the League of Women Voters of Maryland.

"So, it's not surprising that women have risen in leadership in the legislature and local government," Ms. Pollard said. "It's not at all surprising that we would see governor and lieutenant governor -- both candidates and successful campaigns."

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