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Rothenberg One of the nation's top political analysts, Stuart Rothenberg, dissects politics at the congressional and statewide levels.

Tobacco Debate Hangs Over Kentucky Senate Race

In Maryland, Gov. Glendening can't take anything for granted

By Stuart Rothenberg

With the May 26 Kentucky primary starting to draw near, all of the major Democratic candidates have hit the airwaves. There is also greater attention to statewide polling and fund-raising figures as Cong. Scotty Baesler, Lt. Gov. Steve Henry and businessman Charlie Owen sprint to the finish line and a general election match against Cong. Jim Bunning, the prohibitive favorite for the GOP Senate nomination.

A new survey, conducted by Mason-Dixon Research from April 13-15 shows Baesler leading in the Democratic primary with 35 percent, to 17 percent for Henry and 12 percent for Owen. Those numbers were little changed from a month earlier, when a March Louisville Courier-Journal "Bluegrass Poll" showed Baesler, the Lexington-area congressman, with 36 percent, followed by Henry at 16 percent and Owen at 8 percent.

 Rothenberg's 1998 House Outlook

The new Mason-Dixon survey shows Baesler ahead of Bunning by nine points, 42-33 percent, but the Republican leading Henry (36-33 percent) and ahead of Owen (36-29 percent).

Each of the candidates is pouring personal money into their races. During the first three months of this year, Owen loaned his campaign about $2.4 million, bringing his total loans to the campaign to just shy of $3 million. Henry just loaned himself $255,000, while Baesler put $150,000 into the campaign.

There is no doubt which of the three Democrats has the deepest personal pockets. Disclosure statements cited by Roll Call, Capitol Hill's leading political newspaper, put Owen's wealth at the tens of millions of dollars, much of it from cable television and real estate investments.

Owen was the first of the three Democrats to go up on the air, beating his two opponents by about a month. He has run introductory biographical ads, but also a spot on crime and schools. Henry's ads note his medical background, his endorsement by the Kentucky Education Association, as well as his political background. And Baesler's ads talk about a few issues as well as the congressman's background, including his accomplishments in Congress.

Owen's money is expected to catapult him into the race, and money will be crucial for all three candidates.

The current national debate over tobacco hangs like a cloud of smoke over the state's Senate race. None of the candidates wants to appear insensitive to the interests of tobacco farmers, yet even in Kentucky there is sensitivity to teen smoking and the "big tobacco companies." Still, the aggressive views of the president, the vice president and a number of national Democrats place an added burden on the eventual Democratic nominee.

Meanwhile, Bunning appears to be coasting to his party's nomination, and insiders say that Sen. Mitch McConnell, the state's other senator and the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, continues to take a very active interest in the race. As long as Bunning listens to the advice of veteran campaign strategists, the Republicans have a pretty good chance of picking up this seat in what is certain to be a close, hard-fought general election.

Maryland's Glendening remains vulnerable

Maryland Governor While most incumbent governors appear headed for easy re-election in November, Maryland Democrat Parris Glendening continues to be headed for a tough battle.

A new poll, conducted in early April by Mason-Dixon Research shows the governor with a comfortable lead in the Democratic primary but running virtually even against the likely GOP nominee.

Glendening draws 45 percent to Harford County Executive Eileen Rehrmann's 15 percent and former professional football player Raymond Schoenke's 5 percent. Two other hopefuls barely register. In the GOP primary, '94 loser Ellen Sauerbrey is clobbering Howard County executive Charles Ecker, 65-14 percent.

Glendening simply has better statewide recognition than his Democratic primary opponents, to say nothing of his huge financial advantage. Generally upbeat news about the state Legislature's session, some of it no doubt resulting from good economic news, is bound to help the governor's re-election efforts.

But with Schoenke promising to spend millions in the race -- much of it on statewide television ads -- and Rehrmann reportedly ready to get the endorsement of the mayor of Baltimore, Glendening can't take his renomination for granted.

More worrisome for the governor, however, is that he still has not solidified his hold on the state. The Mason-Dixon poll showed him leading Sauerbrey by only four points, 45-41 percent, hardly impressive considering the state's heavily Democratic tilt and the governor's incumbency. Indeed, his personal ratings stand at a weak 38 percent favorable/35 percent unfavorable, suggesting that voters have not, after more than three years, become attached to Glendening.

Sauerbrey has some of her own personal baggage to overcome, as well as the state's traditional Democratic voting patterns, but Glendening is headed for a rough seven months unless his poll numbers change dramatically.

In Other News

Tuesday April 21, 1998

Clinton Rips School Tuition Bill As 'Ill-Advised'
War Of Words Over Tobacco Escalates
Former President Takes Issue With Starr's Attempt To Subpoena Secret Service
Susan McDougal Awaits Starr's Subpoena

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