Harford Democratic leaders say they weren't surprised challenger Donald C. Fry and incumbent Delegate Joseph A. Lutz carried the primary voting in the District 35A House of Delegates election Tuesday.
The other incumbent in the race, Delegate William A. Clark Jr., who switched parties after his election in 1986, was defeated. He came in third in all 15 precincts and in the two absentee precincts.
District 35A, which encompasses the northern end of Harford, has two house seats. Fry and Lutz face Republicans James M. Harkins and Dorothy P.
Stancill, unopposed in the primary, in the Nov. 6 general election.
Fry, a Bel Air lawyer who was chairman of the county's Democratic Central Committee until Tuesday, was the top vote-getter in eight of the district's 15 precincts.
Fry garnered 4,701 votes, or 28.9 percent, slightly behind Lutz, who had 4,773 votes, or 29.4 percent of the vote. Clark finished third with 3,047 votes, or about 19 percent.
"I'm just ecstatic," Fry said shortly after the election results became final. "I'm thrilled with the margin of victory because we have worked very hard. Right now we're on a roll, and we've got to keep that momentum going."
Lutz, who carried seven precincts, credited Fry for his hard work as a newcomer. But he said another factor in Clark's defeat may have been the criticism of Clark's heavy PAC financing that Fry brought up in the few weeks of the race.
"It's never just one thing that affects an election. There was some negative campaigning that was waged against Bill, but he chose not to respond. It was a difficult campaign because I knew Fry was working as hard as I was, and I've never had that before. And it shows in the numbers," said Lutz.
"It was tough for me to have Bill lose because he's been my seat-mate for eight years. But in an election you either win, or you lose, there's no middle ground."
A subdued Clark attributed his loss to his change of party affiliation in 1986. Clark, a two-term delegate, was elected in 1986 as a Republican, but switched to the Democratic party after the election. This was Clark's first election as a Democratic candidate. He had said at the time of his party switch that he did so because in Maryland the only way to gain access to the inner circles of government in Annapolis was to be a Democrat.
"I guess what in a nutshell happened, I'm sure, was my changing parties," said Clark. "I knew it would have an effect, I just couldn't overcome that. Some people resented it, and other's didn't understand it.
But if I had it to do over again, I'd do it again the same way."
But David W. Shrodes, a member of the county's Democratic Central Committee, said Clark's party change wasn't the only reason Fry did so well in the primary.
"I think there's more to it," said Shrodes. "Constituent service was an issue. And Donald's leadership on the Central Committee helped, too. But I think there was just a movement in the district for a change, and that's the primary reason he (Fry) was almost tied with Lutz."
Michael Davall, a member of the county's Republican Central Committee, agrees there is a movement in the county for new leadership. That movement gives GOP candidates Harkins and Stancill a strong bid in the Nov. 6 general election, Davall said.
"I think Clark, had he won in the primary, would have been more vulnerable in the general election," said Davall. "But the incumbent (Lutz) may still be more vulnerable than Fry. I think incumbents are very vulnerable this year -- ask John W. Schafer," he said referring to the District C County Councilman defeated by newcomer Theresa M. Pierno.