Republicans dare to hope for Balto. Co. Council upset

October 03, 1990|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Evening Sun Staff

An Evening Sun story Wednesday about Republican candidates for Baltimore County Council incorrectly listed the reason George W. Murphy was disciplined by his employer, Baltimore County. Murphy was reprimanded in 1988 for reporting the county government to the Army Corps of Engineers for sediment control violations. He won a reversal of the action this year and a letter was removed from his file.

Murphy also sought to clarify two other points. He said he already has spent $3,000 on his campaign, not that he has $3,000 left to spend, and said he has more street signs than his Democratic opponent in Woodlawn, not in the entire district.

Seven Republican candidates -- five men and two women -- are running for Baltimore County Council, a body on which no Republican has held a seat since 1978.


The seven include a gadfly county employee who switched political parties to run for council and a lifelong Republican homemaker-volunteer with visions of a real chance at victory.

Only one of the seven, Towson lawyer Douglas Riley, 37, had to compete in the Sept. 11 Republican primary, so the rest received almost no public or media attention. Initially given little chance of winning by most observers, the Republicans have been plagued by their anonymity and lack of money and volunteers.

Now, with most county politicians still in shock over the anti-incumbent tone registered by the few county voters who participated in the primary election two weeks ago, the Republicans have begun daring to think, to hope, that this may be their time to regain a voice in local government.

Council incumbents Dale T. Volz, D-7th, and Norman W. Lauenstein, D-5th, were soundly beaten by Democratic challengers. Councilman Ronald B. Hickernell, D-1st, won by fewer than 600 votes. Those three races seemed to defy the political wisdom that incumbents lose only in high-turnout elections.

The Republicans also have been heartened at many reports of the slipping support for County Executive Dennis F. Rasmussen, another Democrat seeking re-election. Roger B. Hayden, a former school board president, is the Republican nominee.

Richard Bennett, county Republican chairman, said the party is giving money this year to all GOP council candidates, and is especially hopeful of winning two seats, in Towson and Catonsville. Hickernell, bloodied in the primary, and 12-year council veteran Barbara F. Bachur, D-4th, of Towson, are the primary GOP targets.

Berchie Lee Manley, 61, of Catonsville, is the Republican seeking Hickernell's seat. A neighborhood activist, she has been involved in efforts by the Southwestern Coalition to block any intent to turn the Patapsco area's 5,000 rural acres into still another new town growth area. Manley feels that festering resentment against Hickernell for his role in promoting that plan, and for increased traffic congestion and school crowding due to new housing in the district's older neighborhoods will propel her over the top.

She's especially hopeful that followers of Hickernell's Democratic challenger, George A. Abendschoen, who came close to winning, will now throw their support to her.

Her problems, lack of money, limited time and volunteers, and lack of exposure to voters, are common to all the Republican candidates. The exception may be Riley, who has been able to tap his legal profession contacts to raise up to $45,000 for the primary and general election campaigns.

Patricia Fullagar, 44, a data-processing consultant running for the Essex council seat now occupied by Lauenstein, shares an even greater burden, along with Lawrence O. Williams Jr., the 7th district candidate from Dundalk.

With the vulnerable incumbent Democrats already defeated -- Lauenstein by Vincent Gardina, and Volz by Donald Mason -- the wind has been taken out of the Republican challengers' sails in those two eastern Baltimore County districts.

Fullagar, who switched from the state Senate race to go against Lauenstein, said she's up at 4 every morning, going door to door before and after work and holding up signs on street corners. She has only about $2,000 to spend, however, and nowhere near the number of volunteers Gardina has collected. She had hoped, she acknowledges, that Gardina would have weakened Lauenstein, and then supported her in the general election.

Williams, who said he ran for council during the mid-1970s as an independent, said he's not taking contributions and did no real campaigning during the primary, because he had no party opposition. He agreed that his task is harder now with the incumbent beaten and greatly diminished as a target to attack, but he's going door to door three or four hours a day, he said. He is a former Democrat who switched eight months ago, he said, because "the Democratic Party doesn't represent my viewpoint."

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