Playing host to about 250 Republican activists from around the Northeast, Maryland GOP officials said yesterday that they are beginning to generate renewed enthusiasm after the party suffered disastrous election results last year.
"I think we're over the funk from the 1998 election," said Del. Robert H. Kittleman, the House of Delegates Republican leader. "It took a lot longer than I thought. But it's behind us, and the enthusiasm has come back."
State Republican leaders were upbeat as they led the first full day of a weekend meeting of the Northeast Republican Leadership Conference in Annapolis.
Activists and party officials from a dozen states shared strategies on polling and fund raising and looked ahead to national and local elections.
Maryland Republicans would prefer not to look back to last year, when their gubernatorial candidate, Ellen R. Sauerbrey, was swamped by Gov. Parris N. Glendening and the party lost two county executive seats and six seats in the General Assembly.
Richard D. Bennett, the Maryland Republican Party chairman, said he is pleased with the GOP's rebound.
He said the state party has raised more than $500,000 this year -- well above the normal amount for the first year after a state election -- with a goal for the year of $750,000.
The party has also moved its headquarters from the outskirts of Annapolis to a refurbished bank building downtown to give it more visibility. And it has hired more staff and modernized its computer system, Bennett said.
"It's been a great shot in the arm to have" the new headquarters, Bennett said. "It's been a great morale booster."
Earlier this week, the state's Republican legislative caucus announced ambitious plans to raise $1 million for its General Assembly candidates in 2002 -- to match similar efforts of Democratic leaders.
Bennett also said he was pleased that several qualified Republicans such as mayoral candidate David F. Tufaro are running energetic campaigns in overwhelmingly Democratic Baltimore.
"We can say we are not ashamed of our candidates," Bennett said. "We are proud of our candidates."
Pub Date: 10/02/99