WASHINGTON -- Rep. Constance A. Morella, a moderate Republican from Montgomery County, said yesterday that she has ruled herself out as a candidate for the U.S. Senate seat of Democrat Paul S. Sarbanes and will run instead for re-election to the House next year.
Coupled with the decision of other prominent Republicans to pass up the 2000 Senate race, Morella's choice almost certainly ensures Sarbanes a smooth path to a fifth term.
Morella had started to raise her profile around the state in recent months as she considered running against Sarbanes, a cerebral lawmaker often criticized for his seeming detachment but who has repeatedly won by wide margins beginning in 1976.
"I certainly entertained the idea of running for the Senate very, very seriously," Morella said in an interview. "But as I explored the idea, I realized that I am a perfect match for my district."
Morella, 68, who has represented the 8th District since 1987, has won widespread support from her heavily Democratic constituency with relatively liberal stances on issues such as abortion rights, medical research and the welfare of federal employees.
She was one of five GOP lawmakers, of 228, to vote against impeaching President Clinton last year.
Morella, an accomplished fund-raiser, said the cost of a Senate bid was another factor in her decision.
"I would have had to spend a part of every day raising money, which says there is a tremendous need for campaign finance reform," she said.
In the first six months of this year, Sarbanes raised more than $663,000. He had $704,000 in his campaign account as of June 30, about 2 1/2 times as much as he had at this point in his last campaign.
Morella received $124,000 in campaign contributions during the first half of this year and had nearly $304,000 in her federal account, which could have been used for a Senate run.
Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Baltimore County Republican who was initially interested in challenging Sarbanes, raised $312,400 during the first half of this year and has more than $530,000 on hand. Ehrlich also intends to run for re-election to the House but might make a gubernatorial bid in 2002.
Pub Date: 9/14/99