Maryland primaries have produced plenty of upsets, but it's not often that Republicans provide the banner headlines. There was plenty of irony in the fact that the biggest story of yesterday's elections was Del. Ellen Sauerbrey's astonishing upset of Congresswoman Helen D. Bentley, the woman whose tireless work for the state Republican Party has made it possible for the GOP to dream of claiming statewide office again. As recently as July, Mrs. Bentley had held a commanding 3-to-1 lead over Mrs. Sauerbrey.
The Sauerbrey victory gives voters a clear choice in November. Her platform features fiscal conservatism, coupled with the promise, ubiquitous in this season's campaigns, to get tough on crime. She will face Parris Glendening, the three-term Prince George's county executive whose approach to government leans toward making it work well rather than cutting its size. Yesterday, Mr. Glendening won a convincing 53 percent of the vote in a field of four major candidates. His strength in almost every part of the state makes him a formidable opponent in the November election.
Mr. Glendening and Mrs. Sauerbrey share a fondness for political theory -- a "wonk" factor. But their similarities end there. Mrs. Sauerbrey drew attention to her determination to shrink the size of government by promising to reduce state income tax by 24 percent over four years, a promise similar to the one that propelled Republican Governor Christine Todd Whitman to victory in New Jersey last year.
While Mrs. Sauerbrey offers a clear ideology with great appeal among many voters, Mr. Glendening has something she lacks: a 12-year record in the executive branch of government. Prince George's County is a complex jurisdiction, and his landslide re-elections as county executive illustrate his ability to appeal to a wide range of the electorate. Countering Mrs. Sauerbrey's anti-government message, Mr. Glendening will stress the fact that he revels in mastering the details of governing.
The Glendening and Sauerbrey victories will make for a compelling campaign between now and November. But voters will also face other lively races. Former Sen. Bill Brock easily won the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate. His vast experience in politics and national affairs will enable him to engage the incumbent, Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, in a healthy debate on issues.
The campaign for attorney general will be another race to watch. Incumbent J. Joseph Curran, who chalked up an impressive showing against two primary opponents, faces a challenge from Republican nominee Dick Bennett, a former U.S. attorney who nTC promises a lively debate on crime.