Gov. Whitman of N.J. appears at fund-raiser for Sauerbrey CAMPAIGN 1998


New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, a hero to Ellen R. Sauerbrey in 1994 and now perhaps a cautionary tale as well, helped her raise $25,000 last night at a fund-raiser in Rockville.

Although the two women disagree on abortion -- Whitman favors abortion rights, Sauerbrey does not -- they stressed their ideological similarities on such issues as tax cuts, fighting crime and requiring more accountability from public schools.

"Some of these social issues, while we can have deep personal feelings, are not what drives the office of governor," said Whitman, part of a parade of nationally prominent Republicans who have visited Maryland to support Sauerbrey. "We're not litmus test Republicans."

Whitman's appearance helps Sauerbrey, who is working to soften her image as a staunch -- some say harsh -- conservative. She has pledged to uphold Maryland's abortion laws, though she favors making some late-term abortions illegal.

But Whitman also offers a reminder of the perils of a candidacy based on deep tax cuts.

She defeated a Democratic incumbent to become governor in 1993 by promising to cut New Jersey's income taxes by 30 percent.

The victory made her the toast of the Republican Party, but she barely won re-election this fall when many New Jersey voters blamed her deep tax cuts for rising local property taxes.

Sauerbrey, who built her 1994 campaign on a Whitman-like call for a 24 percent tax cut, now speaks more generally about cutting taxes. Other issues -- schools, ethics and trimming government regulations -- are equally important to her message.

Last night, there was little talk of Whitman's recent brush with political death.

Tickets were $100, though about 35 supporters paid $500 each for a private reception that included individual photographs with Sauerbrey and Whitman.

Campaign officials estimated that more than 125 people attended and that the event raised about $25,000.

Sauerbrey has raised about $2.1 million.

"I think that [Whitman] has demonstrated that a woman governor every hundred years or so is not a bad idea, and maybe we should try that here," Sauerbrey said in her speech.

Pub Date: 6/11/98

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