Lighthizer Disappears Into Hills

September 12, 1990|By Gary Gately | Gary Gately,Staff writer

Jim Lighthizer headed for the hills where the wild animals roam.

Somewhere.

Nobody seemed sure exactly where, though speculation around the county executive suite yesterday placed him in mountains on the northern portion of the North American continent.

One thing was certain: On primary day 1990, Jim Lighthizer hunted not votes, but wild animals.

"He's way out in the wilderness somewhere hunting, so I don't know what kind of telephone arrangements he has," explained Denise Rankin, the executive's spokeswoman. "But if he calls in for messages, I'll be sure to tell him to call you."

The outgoing county executive never called and went nowhere near the polls yesterday, though he had arranged to cast an absentee ballot before leaving town last week, Rankin said.

"I guess he's got to be curious about who wins," said Rankin, "but from the top of a mountain in "Moose Country" or wherever, it's tough to get to a phone, I guess. He needs a shoe phone for situations like this."

Or maybe that would defeat the purpose of the trip, a long-awaited chance to have no part of the giant popularity contest.

At last, eight years after winning his first term and 12 years after being elected to the state House of Delegates, Lighthizer could leave behind the plastered-on smiles, the anxiety, the glad-handing, the endless stumping -- and simply hunt wild beasts on election day.

A much more palatable alternative, some would suggest.

Fact is, says County Councilwoman Carole B. Baker, just about anything beats being a candidate on election day.

The two-term Severna Park Democrat, one of a handful of Arundel office-holders not seeking re-election, is quick to dismiss any talk of romanticizing the day everybody works months for.

"I don't think you can really talk about what you miss about it; it's like saying, 'What do you miss about having the hives?'" said Baker. "It's not exactly a fun thing for candidates. It's a very long day, a very tense day."

She faced no opposition in the 1986 primary but vividly remembers 1982, her first run, as one of the more miserable days of her life.

"It's the ultimate approval or rejection," she says. "It's the ultimate popularity contest. And all you can do is wait and wait. I thought my brain was going to implode." Baker, who in May became regional service manager for the United Way of Central Maryland, didn't give up politics altogether this election. She's working as campaign manager for Edie Segree, who served as Baker's aide and ran for the Democratic nomination for House of Delegates from District 30.

Two Anne Arundel state delegates also savored being on the outside looking in yesterday.

Delegate George Schmincke, D-Glen Burnie, plans to retire after three terms as a delegate and finally keep his promise to his wife to return to Hawaii for the first time since being stationed there in World War II.

Yesterday, he slept in, until almost 7 a.m., and took off his election mask.

"Every candidate's gotta wear one," Schmincke said. "You gotta act smooth and confident, and on the inside, you're an absolute wreck."

Outgoing Delegate Donald E. Lamb, the Annapolis Democrat, knows the feeling well.

"I tell you, one of the toughest things in the world is to stand there in front of a wall watching the numbers come in," he said. "It's almost like a beauty pageant. Anyone who is calm at that point is probably dead."

Lamb, who underwent triple-bypass surgery during his first term, decided against running again, citing his health and saying he wanted more time for his family and industrial services business. He's helped out with former Annapolis Mayor Dennis M. Callahan's bid for county executive.

Lamb hardly misses campaigning, he says, though he liked to hear what people had on their minds -- with some memorable exceptions: "There's nothing worse than coming up to the primary, out working your can off, and getting to some door and hearing, 'I don't vote for any of you God-blessed politicians 'cause you're all crooks.' That's really disheartening."

That said, Lamb adds that nothing, except possibly the birth of his two children, could compare to winning the seat.

For sheer drama, it's doubtful he could ever come close to matching his 1986 victory. Sweating and exhausted after 12 hours, he decided to leave a nearly empty campaign headquarters about 7 p.m. to change clothes.

But then the phone rang. A 72-year-old Broadneck Peninsula woman wanted to know if he would drive her to the polls, Lamb says. He gave her a ride, along with her two sons. He asked them to vote for him. They did.

When it was over, after a court challenge and a subsequent appeal, Lamb was declared the winner -- by three votes.

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