OCEAN CITY -- Gov. Parris N. Glendening stepped up his anti-gambling message yesterday, making clear that his opposition to legalized slot machines in Maryland will be a dominant theme in his re-election campaign.
Capping a three-day statewide swing to formally announce his bid for a second term, Glendening lashed out at the gambling industry for eyeing the state for expansion.
"They're saying it's a battle, and they're going to win, and they want to bring that type of activity into our communities. I say that's a battle worth joining, and let's get on with the fight," Glendening told about 100 supporters at a boardwalk rally.
Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend continued that theme -- a popular one with civic and political leaders of this Eastern Shore resort town -- in her address.
"We've got to stop the forces of evil," Townsend said. "Let them do their worst, and we will do our best."
Two of Glendening's challengers in the Democratic primary in September have said they support allowing slot machines at some state racetracks, and Republican gubernatorial candidate Ellen R. Sauerbrey has said she would consider slots at the tracks if necessary to save Maryland's racing industry.
Glendening is portraying such proposals as a first step that would inevitably lead to full casino gambling.
"Our values ought to be education and hard work," he said. "Our priorities ought to be family-oriented communities, exactly like Ocean City."
His remarks played well with the audience of local business and political leaders -- many of whom believe expanded gambling, even elsewhere in the state, would pose an economic threat to the resort.
"Tourists only have so many disposable dollars," said Macky M. Stansell, who owns two restaurants and a marina.
While nearby Ocean Downs, a harness track six miles outside Ocean City, has been excluded from proposals for legalized slots so far, Stansell said, "Anywhere in Maryland would hurt."
Ocean City Mayor James N. Mathias Jr., an anti-gambling Democrat supporting Glendening, agreed. He also said he believes that slots at racetracks would allow pressure to mount for further gambling.
"I don't care how well-intentioned anyone is, it's not going to stop there," Mathias said.
Democratic candidate Eileen M. Rehrmann has said she favors legalizing slots at three of the state's racetracks -- Pimlico in Baltimore, Laurel Park in Anne Arundel County and the Rosecroft harness track in Prince George's County -- with 25 percent of the revenue going to the state for education.
Another Democratic contender, Raymond F. Schoenke Jr., says he favors state-owned slot operations at the same three tracks with 60 percent of the revenue going to the state for education programs.
Glendening made a clear reference to Rehrmann yesterday, saying that for her, gambling "is a major issue."
"It's Mr. Glendening who's turning it into a major campaign issue by distorting the facts," Rehrmann spokesman George F. Harrison said later. "As Prince George's County executive, he certainly was willing to allow full casino gambling in that county."
Harrison was referring to the proliferation of casino-style charity gaming in the county during Glendening's 12 years as executive.
As for Glendening's assertion that slots would be the first step toward full casino gambling statewide, Harrison said, "This is just a straw man the governor is throwing up to cloud the issue."
Pub Date: 6/19/98