Moving to prevent a primary challenge, Republican standard-bearer Ellen R. Sauerbrey reached out to party moderates yesterday by naming Anne Arundel County Executive John G. Gary co-chairman of her 1998 gubernatorial campaign.
"John has been very forthright for many months in indicating his support and his plans to help," said Sauerbrey, who narrowly lost the 1994 governor's race to Parris N. Glendening.
"Anne Arundel is one of the three most important counties, John is one of our most important officials, and he knows what it takes to win."
The announcement came six weeks after Gary, a Republican associated with the party's fiscally minded moderate wing, angered party conservatives by saying he "spent most of [his] time keeping Ellen from going over the deep end" while serving with Sauerbrey in the House of Delegates.
But Gary said yesterday he expected his main contribution to the Sauerbrey campaign to be as a voice for moderation, a quality she has often been criticized for lacking.
"We're going to look very hard at getting a balanced ticket, so it's not perceived as being an extreme right-wing campaign," Gary said. "I think she's going to be open to suggestions on that, and I think I will play that role, that voice, to make sure we are going to get a balance."
Gary's decision to serve the Sauerbrey campaign as a "senior adviser" was reached after a meeting last month and a phone call Jan. 14. It also seems to diminish prospects that state Sen. Robert R. Neall, a close friend and political ally of Gary, will run for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.
Last month, Neall was appointed to the seat left vacant by Sen. John A. Cade's death, returning from the private sector over fierce opposition from a populist wing of the Republican Party that supports Sauerbrey.
That faction, composed mostly of unelected party members, believes Neall and Gary worked too closely with State House Democrats, sacrificing conservative principles for fiscal pragmatism in doing so. While sharing many of the moderates' views on lower taxes and smaller government, the populist wing favors a more aggressive approach to building the Republican Party through confrontation with Democrats rather than conciliation.
Gary vigorously defended Neall's record, uttering his remarks about Sauerbrey in doing so. But yesterday, Gary chose party unity over personal ties.
"Clearly, there is a huge majority of Republicans who believe she deserves a second chance at running for governor," Gary said. "I told Bob Neall when he accepted the Senate nomination that I was going to support Ellen. He knew that going in."
Neall said neither Gary nor Sauerbrey discussed their alliance with him, but he dismissed its significance.
"I don't think it's a sign of anything," Neall said. "It didn't have anything to do with me. Whoever is reading the tea leaves better leave me out of it."
By recruiting Gary to her cause, Sauerbrey also may have kicked a major support out from under moderate Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker's potential bid for the GOP gubernatorial nomination.
Gary told Ecker last week during Glendening's State of the State address that he planned to support Sauerbrey.
"I told him I wished he would take the No. 2 position on the ticket, if it was offered to him," he said.
Ecker, who has not announced whether he will enter the race, said he has not been offered the lieutenant governor's post on a Sauerbrey ticket. "People can support whomever they want," he said. "I don't begrudge them that."
He added: "I may or may not run for governor, and that's all I'm really thinking about right now."
Gary said he plans to recommend two Montgomery County Republicans for prominent posts in the Sauerbrey campaign -- and in her Cabinet, if she is successful. They include Del. Richard La Vay and Sen. Patrick J. Hogan, two popular party moderates.
Those recommendations, Gary said, would serve the Sauerbrey campaign in two ways: first, by reaching out to Republican moderates who feel threatened by Sauerbrey's brand of hard-edged conservatism; and second, by including legislators from populous Montgomery County in her cause.
Both Gary and Sauerbrey believe Montgomery, one of only three jurisdictions Glendening won in 1994, is crucial to Republican hopes two years from now.
"Not only do we need to get a balance of moderate and conservative, but we need to get some geographic balance as well," Gary said.
"The battle waged in Montgomery County will probably decide this election."
Sauerbrey said Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties, both with rising Republican registrations, are two other key jurisdictions.
"Those are the three counties I have to get," she said. "I have to maximize my results there to win."
Gary is the first co-chairman Sauerbrey has named to her unannounced campaign. In recent weeks, Sauerbrey has been traveling the state to meet with party leaders, shoring up support to avoid a divisive primary season. She said she expects to announce several other co-chairmen in the coming weeks.
"I am a conservative," she said. "I've never tried to be anything I'm not.
"But I have also always understood that you must be inclusive. You cannot have any faction that thinks you don't respect their opinion, and that you don't want to work with them."
Pub Date: 1/22/97