A heartened Gramm opens Maryland bid GOP contender: Optimistic after a second-place finish in Florida's straw poll, Texas Sen. Phil Gramm has opened a headquarters in Cockeysville.; CAMPAIGN 1996


WASTING NO time getting back on the presidential campaign trail after his second-place showing in the Florida straw poll over the weekend, Texas Sen. Phil Gramm came to Cockeysville yesterday to open his Maryland campaign headquarters.

Mr. Gramm used the results of the presidential preference poll in Orlando on Saturday to bolster his assertion that he had succeeded in making the run for the GOP nomination "a two-man race" with Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole of Kansas.

In the nonbinding contest, Mr. Gramm captured 26 percent of the more than 3,000 Republican activists voting, compared with a lukewarm 33 percent for Mr. Dole, the front-runner in polls. Former Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander finished a close third, with 23 percent.

"The results in Florida confirm once again that our conservative message -- one of lower taxes, lower spending and less regulation, made credible by my consistent, conservative record is beginning to win this election," Mr. Gramm told a group of supporters yesterday.

While that may have been a tad overstated, Mr. Gramm's second-place finish did give the Dole campaign pause.

Mr. Gramm began the day with a breakfast speech before the Greater Baltimore County Medical Association, then opened the headquarters at an office complex off York Road with his state campaign chairwoman, Ellen R. Sauerbrey. Before him lay campaign forays into New York, South Carolina and Georgia.

In a pleasant departure from his standard stump speech, Mr. Gramm told about 130 GOP elected officials and party activists of the importance of Maryland to grabbing the GOP nomination.

He talked an insider's game, ticking off a list of priority states where elections or caucuses would be key to his capturing the nomination.

First on his list is Alaska, where his wife, Wendy Lee Gramm, and an ally, Arizona Sen. John McCain, are actively campaigning for the state's 16 delegates. Next comes Louisiana, with its 27 delegates in a "winner-take-all" caucus.

If there is life after the Iowa caucuses Feb. 12 and the New Hampshire primary eight days later, he said, his focus will be on the key primaries in Georgia, Colorado, Minnesota, Maine and Maryland. All are March 5.

"That is a very important day for us, because that's the day we should take the lead," Mr. Gramm said. "Anything after March 5 is in the next century."

Glendening supporter granted betting license

Call it coincidence. Call it serendipity.

Just don't call it politics.

News from the sports pages tells us that Vincent "Cap" Mona, a Prince George's County contractor who has been very, very good to Gov. Parris N. Glendening, has wound up with a license for one of the state's five off-track-betting parlors.

The Maryland Racing Commission, on a 6-2 vote, granted Mr. Mona the OTB permit for his Port Tobacco Turf Club Restaurant on Nov. 8 despite opposition from nearby residents. The Charles County Commissioners also opposed the move.

In the aftermath, some Charles County locals claimed the skids were greased for the project, pointing out that Mr. Mona installed equipment necessary for OTB before the commission voted. Betting, in fact, began the day after the panel's approval.

The critics also noted that Mr. Mona has been a financial supporter of the governor. Mr. Mona, his family and his companies gave more than $20,000 to Mr. Glendening's election effort last year. But politics had nothing to do with the OTB approval, say the governor and his racing commission chairman, Dr. Allan C. Levey.

"It's flat out, just not true," Mr. Glendening said of the claims. He said he learned Mr. Mona was seeking the permit only through newspaper coverage, and that he never discussed the matter with him or with any member of the racing commission.

Dr. Levey -- the former state GOP chairman who headed Republicans for Glendening -- said Mr. Mona's application met all the necessary OTB criteria.

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