ROCKVILLE -- Speaking in politically hygienic Montgomery County, where patronage is a dirty word, Ellen R. Sauerbrey yesterday charged that her Democratic foe in the governor's race is "always skating near the ethical edge."
Spinning her tax-slashing message to appeal to suburban good-government fans, the Republican also accused Parris N. Glendening, the Prince George's County executive, of "rewarding cronies and contributors" in conducting county business. And, she suggested, he "mortgaged" his campaign through efforts to raise money and garner endorsements.
The Maryland House minority leader stopped short of directly accusing Mr. Glendening of any specific ethical lapse. Instead, she said he indulges in "political paybacks."
"These are ridiculous accusations," said Eric Andrus, Mr. Glendening's communications director.
"Basically she's dredging up tired, old charges now that her tax gimmick is facing heavy scrutiny by the media and by the voters," he said. "This is a desperate candidate."
Mr. Andrus turned around and accused the Baltimore County legislator of being heavily indebted to the National Rifle Association and other special interests. Her allegations, Mr. Andrus said, are "a little disingenuous and two-faced."
At a news conference in the basement of her cramped county headquarters, Mrs. Sauerbrey told reporters Mr. Glendening's administration awarded "massive county legal business to his chief fund-raiser."
She cited newspaper reports that Lance W. Billingsley, chairman of Mr. Glendening's campaign and his chief fund-raiser, was paid more than $120,000 in the past three years to represent the county in handling municipal bonds. Mr. Glendening's campaign insists that Mr. Billingsley was qualified to do the work.
Mrs. Sauerbrey questioned the 1987 sale, for $2 million, by the Prince George's County government of a building appraised at $3 million. The building was sold to Irving Kidwell, one of Mr. Glendening's campaign contributors.
Mr. Glendening has repeatedly denied that politics played a role in the sale.
Mrs. Sauerbrey also noted that, in 1982, the state prosecutor decided some high-ranking Prince George's County employees violated state law when they met to plan opposition to a tax- and term-limit referendum.
But the prosecutor didn't press charges, saying the matter involved no "evil or corrupt activity."
"Parris has acknowledged wrongdoing in that one case," said Mr. Andrus. "The people involved have been reprimanded and changes were made to make sure it doesn't happen again."
Trying to turn Mr. Glendening's numerous political endorsements and $6 million in campaign contributions against him, Mrs. Sauerbrey charged that: "This campaign is producing a heavy mortgage on the future of state government."
How can he reform health care, she demanded, when "he's raised a ton of money from health care providers?" How can he reform welfare, she asked, "when he's indebted to the most liberal wing of the Democratic Party?"
At one point, she asked "what kind of deals are being made" with, among others, "the Kennedy family?" She said the extended political clan had staged a fund-raiser for Mr. Glendening at their Hyannis Port, Mass., compound.
Was she suggesting that Mr. Glendening chose Kathleen Kennedy Townsend as his running mate because of the money the Kennedy family could bring to the campaign?
"She's not bringing much else to the campaign," Mrs. Sauerbrey said.
The Republican, Mr. Andrus said, "is spending her time coming up with wild conspiracy theories, when she should be telling the voters how she's going to come up with $3 billion" to pay for her proposed 24 percent cut in personal income taxes and other promises.