Trading on his three decades in national Republican politics, William E. Brock, seeking the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate, drew several party luminaries to Baltimore last night for his first major fund-raiser.
Former U.S. Secretary of Education and best-selling author William J. Bennett was the main attraction at the dinner held at Stouffer's Harborplace Hotel. Joining Mr. Bennettand about 250 other Republicans were U.S. Sens. Richard G. Lugar of Indiana and Don Nickles of Oklahoma.
They helped Mr. Brock bring in an estimated $125,000.
Joyce L. Terhes, head of the state Republican Party, said last night's event was the most profitable GOP Senate fund-raiser since at least 1980, the last time a major GOP figure ran for the office. The amount of money raised and the guest list underscored the political stature of Mr. Brock, a former U.S. senator from Tennessee, Reagan administration Cabinet member and head of the national Republican Party.
"I think most of the analysis of this race is that it is winnable in large part because of the quality of Bill Brock's candidacy," Mr. Lugar said. "He is an experienced campaigner and a statesman of considerable national rank."
But $125,000 is small change for a statewide race in which the winner may have to spend several million dollars. A week's advertising in the politically essential Washington television market costs $185,000 to $200,000, said Steve Watson, Mr. Brock's campaign manager.
Mr. Brock is trying to unseat three-term incumbent Democrat Paul S. Sarbanes, a household name in Maryland and a well-financed candidate. Mr. Brock is known by less than half of Maryland voters, according to a recent statewide poll.
Several prominent figures in the Maryland Republican Party attended last night's event, which included a $200-a-plate chicken dinner and a $1,000-a-person VIP cocktail party. Prominent guests included H. Furlong Baldwin, dean of the Baltimore business community; Christian H. Poindexter, chairman and chief executive officer of Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.; and former Maryland U.S. Attorney George Beall.
Mr. Beall spoke optimistically about Mr. Brock's chances of taking the Senate seat in Maryland, where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans voters by about 2 to 1.
"This is the strongest Republican ticket that Maryland has seen since I can remember," Mr. Beall said, referring to U.S. Rep. Helen Delich Bentley's run for governor and former federal prosecutor Richard Bennett's bid for attorney general.
William J. Bennett, whose "The Book of Virtues" has been on best-seller lists for several months, offered his own theory. Maryland is a far more moderate state than its current Senate representation -- which includes Democrat Barbara A. Mikulski -- would suggest, he said.
"I think it's out of whack," said Mr. Bennett, who lives in Chevy Chase. "These people are too far to the left."
Asked why Marylanders continue to elect them by wide margins, Mr. Bennett said: "I don't know how to explain it."
Last night's event focused mostly on the general election, but Mr. Brock first must get past several other Republicans in the Sept. 13 primary. He faces a tough opponent in Ruthann Aron, a Montgomery County developer and political newcomer who is running an outsider campaign, calling Mr. Sarbanes and Mr. Brock career politicians.
Also in the Republican race are C. Ronald Franks, a state delegate from the Eastern Shore, and Ross Z. Pierpont, a Baltimore surgeon and frequent political candidate.
Mr. Brock's next fund-raiser, scheduled for Tuesday in Silver Spring, will feature Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole and U.S. Sen. Nancy L. Kassebaum, both of Kansas.