The Republican and Democratic candidates for governor were deadlocked last night, while voters re-elected Paul S. Sarbanes, a liberal Democrat, to his fourth term in the U.S. Senate.
In the Attorney General's race, Republican challenger Richard Bennett held a razor's-edge lead over the Democrat, J. Joseph Curran Jr., who was seeking his third term.
Elections officials estimated the statewide turnout at 58 percent of registered voters, slightly higher than the 55 percent they predicted Monday.
In the governor's race, Ellen R. Sauerbrey, 57, a 16-year veteran of the House of Delegates, took a narrow early lead over the Democrat, Parris N. Glendening, 52, a University of Maryland professor and Prince George's County executive.
Mr. Glendening was the early favorite in the race because of the Democrat's statewide 2-to-1 edge in registered voters.
Then Mrs. Sauerbrey, who called for a 24 percent cut in personal income taxes over four years, pulled even and passed him in some late opinion polls.
Mr. Glendening, who ran as a pragmatic technocrat with a carefully plotted plan for governing, called for increases in spending on education and prison reform without a tax increase. He tried to paint Mrs. Sauerbrey as an extremist, citing her opposition to abortion and gun control.
The Republican had a far simpler message: slash state personal income taxes by one-quarter over four years. She insisted her tax surgery would be nearly painless, with no layoffs and no cuts in vital programs. And she portrayed Mr. Glendening as favoring high taxes and big government.
Mr. Glendening, who won the overwhelming support of black voters, needed a big turnout in Baltimore City to have any hope of winning. Election officials estimated that 58 percent of registered city voters showed up at the polls last night, compared with 36 percent in 1990.
In the attorney general's race, both candidates boasted of their crime-fighting prowess and brawled their way through the campaign. Mr. Bennett accused Mr. Curran of using his state car and driver for out-of-state shopping trips. Mr. Curran said that Mr. Bennett didn't pay withholding taxes on employees in his private law firm several years ago.
In the struggle for the state's only open congressional seat, Republican Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., 36, of Timonium beat the Democrat, Gerry L. Brewster of Towson, 37, by a margin of almost 3-2.
Both are graduates of Baltimore's Gilman School and Princeton, and both serve in the House of Delegates.
But the state's 2nd District seat was crafted with its current occupant, Republican Helen Delich Bentley, in mind. Combined with the statewide shift toward Republicans, Mr. Ehrlich was always the clear favorite in the race. (Rep. Bentley was defeated by Mrs. Sauerbrey in the Republican gubernatorial primary.)
Senator Sarbanes, a liberal incumbent in a year when both are supposed to be loathed by voters, was leading 56 percent to 44 percent in early returns.
An exit poll conducted for The Sun showed Mr. Sarbanes winning among every sector of the electorate. He succeeded, apparently, in portraying the challenger as a carpetbagger, and in raising doubts about Mr. Brock based on his votes in the 1960s against civil rights and environmental legislation.
Voters appeared reluctant to slap a term limit on another tenacious Democrat. Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein, seeking his term as the state's chief tax collector, led his Republican opponent, banking consultant Timothy Mayberry, by 55 percent
to 45 percent in early returns.
In the 6th District, the freshman Republican, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, turned aside a well-financed challenge from the Democrat, Paul Muldowney. With more than 84 percent of the returns counted last night, Mr. Bartlett led, 66 to 34 percent.
Mr. Muldowney, 59, who served two terms in the state legislature, charged that the incumbent voted "no" on practically every piece of legislation. Mr. Bartlett, a 68-year-old scientist, was elected on a pledge to hold down government spending, even if his stance affected his Western Maryland district.
He kept that promise, voting against federal aid for snow removal after his district was buried in the blizzard of 1993.
Among Democratic incumbents, Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin won a fifth term, beating Republican Robert Ryan Tousey in the 3rd District. Rep. Kweisi Mfume won his fifth term, beating Republican Kenneth Kondner in the 7th District.
Rep. Albert R. Wynn beat Republican Michele Dyson in the 4th District.
Among Republicans, Rep. Constance Morella beat Democrat Steven Van Grack, winning her fifth term. Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest won a third term, beating Democrat Ralph T. Gies.
In the 5th District, Rep. Steny Hoyer, seeking his eighth term, beat Republican Donald Devine, who served as director of the Office of Personnel Management under former President Ronald Reagan.
In Anne Arundel County, Republican John G. Gary and Democrat Theodore J. Sophocleus were in a dead heat in early returns.
Baltimore County Executive Roger B. Hayden was fighting for a second term, after his 1990 upset of a Democrat. But challenger Charles A. Dutch Ruppersberger III of Cockeysville appeared to hold the upper hand.
Mr. Ruppersberger, a conservative Democrat, attacked Mr. Hayden's executive skills on a number of fronts, including his handling of road maintenance, cuts in the police department and other county agencies and his record on economic development.
Historically, the Democrats have dominated the state legislature, holding 116 of 141 seats in the House of Delegates and 28 of 47 seats in the state Senate. Republicans hoped to pick up as many as 15 seats in the House and five in the Senate as a result of Mrs. Sauerbrey's clout.
Early returns suggest that the GOP could pick up as many as eight seats in the state Senate. It wasn't clear how the balance of power might change in the House of Delegates.