With Democratic voters surging to the polls, Gov. Parris N. Glendening turned back an aggressive challenge from Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey yesterday and won a second four-year term.
With all the votes counted, Glendening defeated Sauerbrey by a wider-than-expected margin of 56 percent to 44 percent.
"I just keep thinking the more bitter the battle, the sweeter the victory," Glendening told supporters gathered at the University of Maryland, College Park, as he declared victory about 11: 25 p.m. "What a great win we have had."
Sauerbrey conceded a few minutes earlier, telling a group of several hundred supporters at a hotel near BWI Airport, "It looks like we have not succeeded."
"I'm proud of the campaign we waged," she said. "I don't know what more we could have done."
Glendening's victory came on a good night for Democrats in Maryland, as they swept the statewide races, took back two county executive seats in the Baltimore suburbs while losing one, and appeared headed toward a gain of seven seats in the House of Delegates.
Some legislative races were so close they will be decided by absentee ballots.
Election officials said that yesterday's statewide voter turnout was about 58 percent, down slightly from 1994.
But in heavily Democratic Baltimore, officials said turnout was almost 55 percent -- a far higher figure than many had predicted.
The brisk voting was fueled largely by the bitterly contested governor's race, as well as lingering discontent with the impeachment inquiry of President Clinton, exit polls and interviews with voters showed.
Glendening and Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend built their victory on strong support from blacks and women, exit polls showed.
Sauerbrey and her running mate, former U.S. Attorney Richard D. Bennett, led among white men.
In a race that was not as close as the governor's battle, former Gov. William Donald Schaefer made his formal return to politics, winning a four-year term as state comptroller over Republican Larry M. Epstein.
Schaefer won 62 percent to 38 percent.
Democrat J. Joseph Curran Jr. won a fourth term as attorney general, defeating former Howard County police chief Paul H. Rappaport by 64 percent to 36 percent.
At the federal level, U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski cruised to victory over perennial candidate Ross Z. Pierpont, prevailing 71 percent to 29 percent to gain a third six-year term.
And all eight incumbent members of Congress from Maryland were headed for re-election.
In the state's tightest congressional race, U.S. Rep. Constance A. Morella, a Montgomery County Republican, maintained a 20-point lead over civil rights activist Ralph G. Neas.
Observers said Morella, a liberal who has enjoyed widespread popularity in predominantly Democratic Montgomery County, had lost at least some support because of her party's handling of the impeachment inquiry.
Key local races
Locally, Democrats won two key races.
In Anne Arundel County, Janet S. Owens defeated incumbent Republican John G. Gary in the race for county executive.
In Howard County, James N. Robey, the retired county police chief, defeated Republican Dennis R. Schrader, a vice president of the University of Maryland Medical System, as Democrats also regained control of the Howard County Council.
But in Harford County, Republican Del. James M. Harkins defeated Arthur H. Helton, a former state senator, in the race to succeed Democrat Eileen M. Rehrmann.
Glendening, 56, became the fourth consecutive Democratic governor to win re-election to a second term.
His lead was substantially higher than his victory margin over Sauerbrey four years ago, when he defeated the Republican by fewer than 6,000 votes out of 1.4 million cast.
Sauerbrey, 61, who had campaigned almost nonstop over the past four years, had been seen as the GOP's best chance to break the Democratic hold on the State House since Spiro T. Agnew left the governor's office in 1968.
The governor was clearly helped yesterday by better-than-expected victory margins in the three jurisdictions he carried in 1994 -- Baltimore City and Montgomery and Prince George's counties.
In Baltimore, Glendening rolled up a whopping margin of 81 percent to 19 percent over the former delegate from Baltimore County.
But the governor may have sealed his re-election in Montgomery, the state's most populous jurisdiction, where voters gave him a 62 percent to 38 percent lead over Sauerbrey.
In Prince George's, where Glendening served as county executive for a dozen years, he led 74 percent to 26 percent -- an improvement of 6 percentage points over 1994.
The governor added to his base, though, by strongly carrying Howard and Allegany counties and running almost even with Sauerbrey in Baltimore County, where he lost badly last time.
Glendening and Sauerbrey battled furiously during a campaign that set records for most money spent by two candidates for governor in Maryland -- a total that may exceed $11 million -- and was defined by an unprecedented barrage of negative advertising by both.
The Republican repeatedly focused on questions raised over the years about Glendening's trustworthiness and public discontent with his support for publicly funded football stadiums.
The governor, meanwhile, highlighted Sauerbrey's conservative voting record during her 16 years as a state legislator.
In particular, Glendening relentlessly reminded voters of Sauerbrey's long-standing opposition to abortion and gun control, as well as her poor ratings from environmental advocacy groups.
Near the end of the campaign, Glendening made a concerted effort to win support from blacks by airing ads recounting a handful of votes Sauerbrey made against civil rights bills.
Sauerbrey said that effort hurt her with voters.
"I think we did everything we could, but it was not enough because there was a great deal of racial division," Sauerbrey said. "A lot of African-American leaders tried to stand up, but we just didn't get that message out."
Glendening won nine out of 10 black votes, according to surveys of voters leaving polling places.
He also led among women voters by a margin of 58 percent to 41 percent, the surveys showed.
While Sauerbrey downplayed any negative effect her anti-abortion positions may have had, Bennett said the issue helped Glendening.
"She tried to make a statement that she wasn't going to turn the clock back [on abortion laws], but clearly that did not assuage some voters," Bennett said.
Pub Date: 11/04/98