BALTIMORE – Calling it “the most fun you can have without defeating a Democrat,” WBAL-AM in Baltimore debuted the Ellen Sauerbrey Show on Monday night.
Phones rang in support of Sauerbrey all evening.
Callers to the politically formatted talk show included U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kansas, and Abraham Lincoln (really Del. John Leopold, R-Anne Arundel).
Dole spoke about balancing the federal budget, saying that spending ought to be cut and taxes should not be raised. He also congratulated Sauerbrey on her show and said her efforts to obtain governorship were courageous.
Leopold was introduced as Lincoln in honor of the 16th president’s birthday and to remind listeners of Lincoln’s political setbacks before becoming president.
Sauerbrey, the 1994 Republican gubernatorial nominee, narrowly lost to Gov. Parris N. Glendening in November, and unsuccessfully contested the election in court.
She had a bit of trouble connecting with some of her calls Monday.
“You see, when I was in the legislature,” she explained to a caller from Saratoga Springs, “I had a red button to vote `no’ and a green button to vote `yes.’ Now I’ve got a whole bunch of buttons and you and I are going to have to work through how I do this.”
Sauerbrey was poised amid the television crews jamming the small broadcast booth to get shots of her on the air.
Show producer Aaron Harris called it the best performance of a first-time talk show host he had ever seen.
“The media…were right in her face and she was just calm,” Harris said. “You couldn’t hear any quiver in her voice. She claims she was somewhat nervous at the beginning, but I couldn’t hear it. I was nervous for her but she was very smooth.”
Sauerbrey, who spent 16 years as a delegate representing Baltimore County, said it was quite different from the legislative experience.
She said thinking about commercial breaks and pushing the right buttons made her nervous about focusing carefully on what the callers said.
“If your mind wanders, you don’t know what you’ve just heard,” she said. “In terms of preparing for my own talk show this was like jumping off a cliff and hoping you land in the right place.”
Station officials said a hectic schedule kept her from becoming as familiar with the radio control board as she might have liked.
But she did master one piece of broadcasting, how to end a phone call. “I hope you keep on listening,” she urged callers.
After the show, Sauerbrey pointed out the differences between her influence as a broadcaster and the influence she would have had as governor.
She said being a talk show host could have influence on public opinion and move people to contact their legislators, while controlling radio buttons was far from “pushing the buttons of government.”
“The governor, during the nine months the legislature is not in session, really runs state government,” she added.
Speaking of the governor, Glendening was not among Monday’s listeners. He was at an Annapolis reception hosted by The Washington Post, his press secretary, Dianna Rosborough, said Tuesday. Sauerbrey’s show will run 8 to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday “until baseball season begins…if baseball season begins,” she said. -30-