New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman offered herself yesterday as flesh-and-blood proof that Maryland Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey's tax cut gambit can work.
The New Jersey governor, whose own tax cut initiative has made her a hot property on the campaign trail this fall, was one of three Republicans of national stature to stump for Maryland candidates yesterday. A fourth is due here tomorrow, revving up a fall election that Maryland Republicans believe could be theirs for the taking.
In Towson, House Minority Whip Newt Gingrich of Georgia helped 2nd District congressional candidate Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. raise about $40,000 for his campaign. Just a handshake and a photo with Mr. Gingrich cost Ehrlich donors $500 apiece.
U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania showed up in Pikesville to campaign for Dr. Richard Manski, a little-known Republican who is challenging Democratic state Sen. Paula C. Hollinger in Baltimore County's newly drawn 11th District.
In Annapolis tomorrow, Arizona U.S. Sen. John McCain is expected to help raise money for Ralph C. Rosacker, a candidate for the House of Delegates in the 30th District who once worked in Senator McCain's office.
The influx of big-name Republicans appears to be giving Maryland's underdog Republican Party a sudden infusion of enthusiasm.
"There is a feeling," said an exuberant Joyce L. Terhes, the state GOP chairwoman. "I'm seeing it everywhere we go. I can sense it, feel it."
Even before Governor Whitman arrived, Mrs. Sauerbrey was interviewed privately by nationally syndicated columnist George F. Will, an attention rarely shown GOP candidates in Maryland.
Republican faithful at a rally for Governor Whitman at a hotel adjacent to Baltimore-Washinbgton InternationalI Airport yesterday wildly applauded the New Jersey governor, who had just flown in from a series of campaign appearances for Republican candidates in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois and Tennessee. They loudly chanted Mrs. Sauerbrey's name, waved flags and plac- ards, and stood in line to have their pictures taken with the beaming GOP nominee.
Mrs. Sauerbrey, who has proposed to cut state incomes taxes by 24 percent over four years, said there are a lot of parallels between her campaign and that of Ms. Whitman, who won office a year ago after promising to cut New Jersey taxes by 30 percent.
She has followed through by cutting taxes 5 percent retroactively in her first year and 10 percent more, effective in January.
"The people understand," Governor Whitman said of the message both she and Mrs. Sauerbrey are espousing.
"They know that you can deliver smaller, smarter government and that the world is not going to come to an end."
Ms. Whitman's critics, however, say her tax cuts have been achieved only by forcing local governments to raise property taxes in their place, or by deferring certain pension system costs for 15 to 20 years from now.
Parris N. Glendening, Mrs. Sauerbrey's Democratic opponent, similarly suggests that her plan is merely a political gimmick that, if enacted, will gut funding for schools, police and other government services, and will shift the financial burden to local taxpayers.
Mr. Gingrich made his Maryland appearance at a Towson breakfast, where 200 Republicans paid $100 each to share fresh-squeezed orange juice, scrambled eggs and pastries with him.
The Georgia Republican then pledged to donate $1,000 of his own money to Mr. Ehrlich's campaign against Democrat Gerry L. Brewster.
Both Mr. Ehrlich and Mr. Brewster are members of the House of Delegates vying to replace retiring Republican U.S. Rep. Helen Delich Bentley.
"Newt Gingrich is the ventriloquist, and Bob Ehrlich is already serving as his mouthpiece," Mr. Brewster said. "The Radical Right rhetoric has already started, and it is out of step with mainstream Maryland."
Mr. Ehrlich plans to use most of his newly raised funds on a television ad campaign.
Dr. Manski, the state Senate candidate who attracted Senator Specter to Maryland, is a Reisterstown resident and associate professor at the University of Maryland Dental School.
Dr. Manski said that until a few months ago he did not know Senator Specter but that he was impressed with the Pennsylvania Republican's efforts to end divisiveness within the GOP and raise a "big tent" for all its adherents.
The newcomer's description of himself as "a fiscal conservative and social moderate" is what drew Mr. Specter to his side.
Senator Specter used the opportunity to renew his attack on the GOP factions which insist on retaining an anti-abortion plank in the national party platform, despite its disastrous impact on the 1992 election.
"If you go to the rank and file of the party you will find most of them are centrists and a repudiation of the far right," Mr. Specter said.
"I do not look for a pro-choice plank but rather for neutrality. It is not an issue for government. The abortion plank is divisive," and if the GOP retains it, it could be the salvation of President Clinton's re-election bid, Mr. Specter said.