Arundel campaign looks like grass roots vs. resume Sophocleus, Neall ready for county executive race ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY

September 12, 1990|By Marina Sarris and Kevin Thomas | Marina Sarris and Kevin Thomas,Evening Sun Staff

Even their victory parties reflected the very different styles of the two nominees for Anne Arundel County executive.

Democrat Theodore J. Sophocleus rode up in a camper to a rather spartan Odenton fire hall, where beer was being served to a number of his enthusiastic supporters.

Republican Robert R. Neall, meanwhile, greeted well-wishers among the chandeliers and buffet trays in a banquet room at the plush Holiday Inn outside Annapolis.

Both men, however, share a common goal. They each hope to be the one to succeed Democratic County Executive O. James Lighthizer, who is prohibited by the county's charter from seeking a third consecutive term.

If the race, as a Neall supporter said, boils down to one of qualifications and personal attributes, Sophocleus will continue to stress his grass-roots activism and local legislative experience. Sophocleus, a pharmacist by trade, has represented the middle-and working-class neighborhoods in Anne Arundel's northern end on the County Council since 1982.

Sophocleus, 51, captured the Democratic nomination yesterday by beating three rivals -- with room to spare. With only absentee ballots left to count, he captured 18,096 votes for a total of 43 percent of the ballots cast.

"I will tell you that the victory is sweet, but the friendships we've made over the last few months are sweeter," the burly Sophocleus told about 300 supporters, including a state labor leader and senior citizens.

Neall, on the other hand, boasts an impressive resume in state government, both as a former House of Delegates minority leader and former drug policy coordinator. Neall, who narrowly lost a 1986 congressional bid to Rep. Tom McMillen, also counts top Democrats such as Gov. William Donald Schaefer and Lighthizer among his friends.

Neall, 42, easily won the GOP nomination for county executive yesterday, garnering 90 percent of the votes or 15,154 ballots. Republicans cast only 1,714 votes, or 10 percent, for rival William J. Steiner, a Glen Burnie restaurateur who was found guilty last month of receiving stolen goods.

Following Sophocleus' lead, Neall will begin buying television campaign ads although he dislikes the thought of squeezing complex campaign positions into "30-second sound bites," he said. Still, he concedes the necessity.

The Sophocleus camp partially credits cable television ads with helping its candidate seize and keep an early lead against three Democrats -- fellow County Council member Michael F. Gilligan, former Annapolis Mayor Dennis Callahan and former state delegate Patricia Aiken. Callahan emerged as a somewhat surprising second place winner yesterday, receiving 10,113 votes to Gilligan's 8,871 and Aiken's 5,386.

Sophocleus began bombarding cable television viewers with ads April. He also tried to turn his long Greek surname into an asset through rhyming games.

"We had to take Ted Sophocleus' name and make it known throughout the county," campaign manager George Mills said. The campaign pointed out, for example, that Sophocleus rhymes with "Socrates" and "sack of fleas."

Lighthizer will leave office in December after serving two terms marked by expanding budgets, beefed-up environmental programs and higher teacher salaries. He leaves a government in sound financial health, although his successor likely will have to grapple with leaner economic times.

Both Neall and Sophocleus say that property tax reform will be among the major issues of their campaigns.

A group of tax rebels gathered more than 20,000 signatures to get a tax rollback measure on the Nov. 6 general election ballot. The future of the measure, which was challenged as unconstitutional by the county government, will be decided after a Sept. 19 hearing in the Maryland Court of Appeals.

Sophocleus has already proposed several tax reform measures, but Neall is unimpressed. Neall says Sophocleus should take some of the blame for taxpayers' frustration because he failed to limit the budget as a council member. "He never met a budget increase he didn't like," Neall charged.

In other races, all of the incumbents running for County Council won their party's nomination yesterday. They include Democrats David G. Boschert in District 4, Virginia P. Clagett in District 7 and Edward C. "Buddy" Ahern, who rebuffed several District 3 challengers and complaints that he had grown out of touch during his four terms. Boschert faces no Republican opposition in the general election.

Clagett will face Republican John J. Klocko III, a Crofton attorney, who won his party's nomination.

Democratic council member Maureen Lamb, District 6, will face Republican Glenwood Gibbs, a former Board of Appeals member, on Nov. 6.

In District 1, George F. Bachman beat two Democratic opponents in his quest to regain the council seat he held from 1965 to 1982. He faces GOP nominee Gerald P. Starr, a financial administrator.

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