Low Turnout, Few Surprises Mark Primary Election

September 16, 1990|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff writer

Tuesday's primary election did not yield any unexpected winners in Carroll, but unofficial vote tallies offer some mild surprises.

The vote counts should give Senate District 5 Republican candidate Larry E. Haines, Republican County Commissioner hopeful Donald I. Dell and Board of Education challenger Joseph D. Mish Jr. a confidence boost heading into the Nov. 6 general election.

In what was considered an unpredictable race, Haines handily defeated Sen. Sharon W. Hornberger, R-Carroll, Baltimore, collecting 3,844 votes, or 57 percent, to the incumbent's 2,481 votes, or 37 percent.

Following unsuccessful bids in 1982 and 1986, Dell served notice that he is a leading commissioner candidate in 1990. The 65-year-old Westminster farmer won the Republican primary, outdistancing the second-place finisher and lone incumbent, Julia W. Gouge, by nearly 1,000 votes.

Mish also topped a two-term incumbent, Robert L. Fletcher, in the school board primary.

Voter turnout was disappointingly low, complained several candidates. Of Carroll's 54,139 registered voters, 17,086, or 31.6 percent, cast ballots. Voter turnout was 36 percent in 1986 and 40 percent in 1982. Democrats had a 35 percent voter turnout Tuesday and Republicans 32 percent.

Here is an analysis of Tuesday's primaries and a look down the campaign road to the general election:


One would be hard-pressed to label any of the six candidates who survived the primary a "surprise," since almost all of the 18 contenders were little known to voters.

Predictably, those who enjoyed the most recognition -- Dell, Gouge and Manchester Mayor Elmer C. Lippy Jr. -- fared well. Lippy, 70, won the Democratic primary, garnering more votes than any candidate from either party with 4,969. Dell received 4,883 votes and Gouge 3,939.

Dell's popularity appears widespread. He won 25 of the 35 precincts, including the Hampstead district, where Gouge lives and has served as mayor.

The most notable performances may have been turned in by Democrat Sharon L. Baker, who finished a strong second with 4,130 votes, and Republican Richard T. Yates, who far outdistanced the rest of the GOP field for third with 3,294 votes.

Baker, 45, a client services supervisor with the County Department of Aging, boasts a strong record of social service and civic involvement. She has focused on growth, education and human services issues. She said she will research issues and develop specific proposals for the duration of the campaign.

Yates, 65, a retired federal government worker, has distinguished himself as perhaps the most conservative candidate with his hard-line stance on reducing property taxes and criticism of government for wasteful spending on education administration.

Yates, who ran unsuccessfully for commissioner as a Democrat in 1986, credits an endorsement he received from Commissioner President John L. Armacost, a fiscal conservative, for aiding his cause.

Yates, a Sykesville resident, ran strongly in the Freedom District, gathering more votes than any other Republican candidate in that area.

Lippy said he was encouraged by his performance in South Carroll, where he won the Berrett and Mount Airy districts and placed a close second behind Baker in Freedom.

Gouge, 50, said she was disappointed by her runner-up status, but not overly concerned.

"This gives you a showing of where things stand at a certain time," she said, adding the low turnout probably hurt her effort.

She said she plans to emphasize more strongly the work she has helped initiate as a commissioner -- such as long-range planning, school construction and water protection -- as the cornerstone of her campaign.

Richard F. Will Sr., 45, a C&P Telephone Co. employee and civic activist, placed a strong third in the Democratic primary with 3,080 votes. At $1,218, Will had spent less than any of the primary winners as of Aug. 26, predicting the race would be determined by issues and voters' perception of the candidates' character. He has gained community support through his involvement in developing the County Vietnam Veterans War Memorial and County Sports Complex.

General Assembly

Commissioner Jeff Griffith, who defeated Francis X. Walsh Jr. in the Democratic primary, is gearing up for a battle over abortion against Haines in Senate District 5. But both candidates emphasize their campaigns are based on much more than that one emotional issue.

Griffith, who is pro-abortion rights, said he expects state anti-abortion activists to target him for defeat. But he says he believes the majority of District 5 voters agree with his stance on the issue.

Haines, who is anti-abortion, said his victory over Hornberger, an abortion-rights advocate, showed the district has a "conservative majority" among Republicans. "The pro-life people come out to vote," he said.

The 52-year-old owner of a Westminster real estate business said he also had a stronger campaign organization and worked harder at gaining "grass-roots support" than his primary opponent.

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