ROCKVILLE -- Democrat Parris N. Glendening and Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey squared off in their first televised debate of the gubernatorial campaign last night, turning up the heat on each other in Montgomery County, where the election for governor could be decided.
Mr. Glendening, the three-term Prince George's County executive, again stressed his experience running a sizable county and painted Mrs. Sauerbrey as out of touch with mainstream Marylanders.
Mrs. Sauerbrey, the Maryland House minority leader from Baltimore County, touted her proposal to cut personal income taxes by 24 percent over four years and attacked Mr. Glendening as an "old-style liberal politician."
Before an overflow crowd of more than 500 at Montgomery College, the two candidates repeated many of the themes of the race and traded charges similar to a debate last week sponsored by the Maryland Chamber of Commerce.
As was the case last week, no clear winner emerged, as each candidate scored points and took hits from the other, before an audience that seemed to favor Mr. Glendening.
The 70-minute debate -- the second of three such forums scheduled so far -- will be telecast tonight on cable stations in the Washington suburbs, about the time a live debate between the two is broadcast on Maryland Public Television.
The candidates' messages last night were considered critical to the success of each campaign, since the race for governor -- which is surprisingly close in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 2-1 -- could be decided in vote-rich Montgomery.
In his opening statement, Mr. Glendening pointed up his support of public education, his environmental record, his experience bringing companies and jobs to Prince George's. He also vowed to fight "for the mainstream values" of Marylanders, specifically mentioning "a responsible gun policy" and "protecting a women's right to choose."
Mrs. Sauerbrey, who consistently has voted against abortion rights and gun control, vowed to "shrink the cost and size" of government and put the savings in the pockets of Marylanders. She said the changes are needed to save the state.
Mr. Glendening came back with an attack on her tax plan, calling it "a political gimmick" and then cited newspaper editorials criticizing the plan for a lack of details.
The debate took a decidedly personal tone after Mrs. Sauerbrey explained her school voucher plan -- which would give parents of students in those public schools "that don't work" the option of a $2,000 tax credit or voucher tuition at a private school.
She called it a plan "for poor families" to provide them the option of putting their children in schools that are not crime-ridden and disruptive.
But Mr. Glendening challenged the plan as an "attack on public )) education" that "is wrong." He then called her "a millionaire . . . who all of the sudden is becoming the champion of the poor."
"I have worked my way out of poverty because of public education," he said.
Mrs. Sauerbrey, a former high school teacher, said she was the daughter of a steel worker. She said she and her husband, a semiretired engineer, had worked for what they had gotten.
"He's playing the class warfare card," she said.
Mrs. Sauerbrey then countered by invoking the Kennedy name. "My opponent chose as a running mate Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who lives in Ruxton," a wealthy Baltimore County suburb.
Mr. Glendening then shot at Mrs. Sauerbrey's pick for lieutenant governor, Paul H. Rappaport, a former state trooper and Howard County police chief now practicing law.
He scoffed at Mr. Rappaport being tough on crime, saying that the Howard County Police Department twice delivered votes of "no confidence" in the chief.
Mrs. Sauerbrey said the no-confidence vote was a union dispute in which the instigator has since come out for Mr. Rappaport.
DEBATE ON TV
The two candidates for governor -- Democrat Parris N. Glendening and Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey -- will square off tonight in a live debate on Maryland Public Television.
The hourlong program, which will begin at 8 p.m., is the only televised statewide forum scheduled before the Nov. 8 general election. It will be aired in the Baltimore area on Channels 22 and 67.