ANNAPOLIS – Despite numerous predictions that Gov. Parris N. Glendening will easily win the Democratic primary Tuesday, one challenger is clinging to hope of an upset.
Terrence A. McGuire, 55, a doctor from Davidsonville, scoffs at polls that show voters don’t even recognize his name.
“I don’t worry about opinion polls,” McGuire said in an interview Wednesday. “We feel we’re going to do real well.”
McGuire, a long shot from the outset, has never held political office. He has raised half a million dollars – to Glendening’s $4.1 million – since announcing 12 months ago.
“We’ve been the underdog since Day One,” McGuire said, “but we’re fighters.”
He has been hammering away on two issues: his strong anti- abortion message and relief for Maryland’s taxpayers.
“The Democratic Party has been hijacked by a cadre of extreme liberals who support unrestricted abortion and have a complete disregard for the taxpayer’s money,” the doctor said.
Indeed, the candidate said, Glendening is among them.
“Glendening is the consummate politician, whose every move is weighed by politics, not principle,” McGuire said.
But Glendening isn’t focusing on the primary anymore. Without any serious threats, he said, his attention is on the general election.
“I will emphasize my record,” Glendening, 56, of University Park, said. “We’re going to lead an aggressive campaign that focuses on the differences between me and my Republican opponent,” who will likely be the 1994 GOP nominee, Ellen R. Sauerbrey.
The governor added that he’s not too familiar with those left in the field of Democratic challengers: McGuire and Lawrence K. Freeman, 47, a political activist and Lyndon LaRouche follower who lives in Catonsville.
Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann, often described as the governor’s most serious Democratic contender, dropped out of the race this summer, as did former Redskin Ray Schoenke.
“With the economy strong, crime down and welfare down,” the governor asked, “why would we want to change?”
Yet McGuire is hanging on. The candidate said he will spend the next few days traveling around Charles and Prince George’s counties, visiting churches and attending crab feasts.
“My campaign has been entirely different than anything you’ve ever seen before,” he said. It’s focused on plain talk and the agenda of an outsider. “I want to bring pride and integrity back to the Democratic Party,” he said.
With a volunteer staff of about 25 regulars – compared to Glendening’s staff of more than 15 paid workers and scores of volunteers – McGuire said his campaign has not been tarnished by image consultants and spin doctors. His staff, he said, helps him in restoring a “voice to the voiceless.”
What’s most important now is getting his message out. That’s why McGuire is planning a blitz of cable television ads, heading into the final days before the primary. His hope? To win the undecided vote.
“Glendening’s support is soft,” McGuire said. “We feel our TV ads are going to swing voters our way.”
Not so, says Del Ali, senior vice president of Mason-Dixon Political/Media Research in Columbia, Md. Even with his ads, Ali said McGuire’s “chances of winning are slim to none.”
In-mid July, before Rehrmann dropped out of the contest, Mason-Dixon conducted a poll of 837 likely voters in the primary election. Only 2 percent said they’d vote for McGuire; 53 percent said at that time they’d vote for Glendening, 23 for Rehrmann. The poll had a margin of error of 3.5 percent.
“I’ve never met anybody who’s ever heard of him,” said Dr. Eric Uslaner, a professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland, College Park. With Glendening virtually all but renominated, he said, “the primary is now a sideshow.”
Similarly, Donald F. Norris, a professor of policy sciences at the University of Maryland – Baltimore County, said the primary is now “fairly meaningless.”
“People who turn out to vote in partisan primaries are the party faithful,” he said, “and they are adherents to the main candidates.”
In part, McGuire faults the media for his low name recognition, alleging they failed to cover him fairly.
“I think what we’ve seen is that the media in general has been practicing de facto censorship by their lack of coverage of my campaign,” he said.
Uslaner disagrees with this analysis. He believes McGuire’s lack of political experience and money are to blame for his poor showing in the polls.
“It’s kind of like blaming the press for not covering the weather in Antarctica,” he said. “Nobody’s interested in it.”
If he wins, McGuire promises to defeat Ellen Sauerbrey in November. And if loses? Well, McGuire says, with a laugh: “I’m going to Disney World.” -30-