A box of sweets struck a sour note during a 40-minute debate Wednesday night between county executive candidates Robert Neall and Theodore Sophocleus.
The box of orange-frosted cupcakes was given to Neall by one of Sophocleus' supporters, spelling out "Sophocleus 1990" and making light of Neall's charges of irregularities in the Linthicum councilman's campaign finances.
Sophocleus has acknowledged that his finance reports list people who contributed cakes for sale at his fund-raisers as cash contributors. Neall asked the state special prosecutor to investigate Monday after his uncle, a resident at a Glen Burnie home for seniors, appeared as a cash contributor to Sophocleus's campaign.
"I will take the cake, Ted, with one provision -- that I not show up on your contributor list," Neall said.
Sophocleus scowled. Resembling an angry grizzly bear, he took the microphone and rose from his seat.
"Bobby, I can assure you, I would not sell you a ticket," said the two-term councilman, drawing a round of applause and cheers from many of the 250 people who attended the debate at the Odenton Fire Department meeting hall.
"This campaign should not be run on innuendo," Sophocleus said. "I will not talk about any of my opponent's personal problems. I hope this campaign will remain on a high positive note."
The Greater Odenton Improvement Association and the West County Chamber of Commerce sponsored the forum, which also included candidates for U.S. representative and the three District 33-House of Delegates seats.
Throughout the debate, Neall and Sophocleus attacked and counter-attacked each others plans to control growth, their environmental records, strategies to combat substance abuse and their records on government spending.
More than once, Neall criticized Sophocleus for his 1984 vote approving a tax-exempt bond to finance construction of trash incinerator in Odenton. Neall, a former House of Delegates minority leader, and other members of the General Assembly delegation lobbied the state Department of Economic Development to veto the bond.
"If Bobby Neall hadn't gotten involved in the incinerator issue about six years ago, we would be standing in the shadow of a 200-foot smokestack," Neall said. Sophocleus countered that one of Neall's principal fund-raisers and a prominent county developer, Jay Litty, owns property off Route 170 in Odenton being considered as a storage site for radioactive medical wastes.
U.S. Representative Tom McMillen, D-4th, and Crofton Republican Robert Duckworth began the evening with lively exchanges over the federal deficit, the savings and loan crisis, Fort Meade and other issues.
McMillen said he would increase taxes as a last resort to lower the federal deficit. He said he would consider increases in luxury, excise and energy taxes, including the federal levy on gasoline.
The two-term congressman said the United States will need help from Japan and Europe. "It's about time the United States of America got more of a contribution from its allies in the defense of the free world," McMillen said.
But, Duckworth countered, "I don't think our foreign allies are going to help us balance our budget deficit.
"We can't look to the allies," the Crofton attorney said. "We have to look to Congress for creating this deficit mess. If we don't change Congress, things aren't going to change."
Duckworth also attempted to discredit McMillen's efforts to preserve Fort Meade's 9,000 undeveloped acres as open space. The congressman helped negotiate a compromise with the Department of the Army that transferred 7,600 acres to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service but left 1,400 acres available for development.
A former president of the Crofton Civic Association, Duckworth said he would have tried to save the entire 9,000 acres.
"I find it somewhat naive by my opponent that (he says) we caved in on this matter," McMillen said.
Five of the six candidates vying for three House of Delegates seats also clashed over issues such as taxes, the environment and government responsiveness. Sen. John Cade, R-Severna Park, sat in for Delegate John Gary, R-Millersville, who had a fund-raiser that night.
Responding to questions about jet noise emanating from Baltimore-Washington International Airport, Republican Edwin Edel said the airport's plans to further expand are among the reasons he joined the House of Delegates race. "I'm tired of being surprised by government and being ignored as a voter," he said.
County lawmakers are considering legislation to limit night flights by cargo and non-Stage 3 aircraft, said Delegate Marsha G. Perry, D-Crofton, who chairs a BWI sub-committee. Stage 3 airplanes have quieter engines.
Turning to the environment, Democrat Sabine Bosma said the state should raise recycling quotas for counties like Anne Arundel from 20 percent of their garbage to 50 percent. But, she said, the state also must help the counties achieve that goal.
Edel said the state should assume responsibility for garbage disposal, including landfill operations and recycling programs. "We don't need incinerators or landfills in every county," he said. "There are some areas where locating these just makes more sense."
Because the counties have been unable to control development, Perry said the state should develop a master growth-management plan.
Democrat Bill Burlison said he wants police to enforce litter laws along state highways. "We've all seen someone throw a bag out their car window," he said. "Have you every heard of anyone arrested for it?"
Copyright The Baltimore Sun 1990