Republican Julian G. "Glenn" Gibbs has been campaigning in the Annapolis area with signs that pose the question, "Gibbs for County Council. Gibbs, who's he?"
Don't expect to find an easy answer. So different are opinions of the 6th District candidate among those who have worked with him that it's hard to believe they're talking about the same person.
Who is Glenn Gibbs, the 63-year-old Gingerville resident who's running against Councilwoman Maureen Lamb, D-Annapolis?
Ask civic activists and GOP party members, and they'll tell you he's a "decent, courtly gentleman" who works well with people, pursues tasks logically and methodically and stands up for what he thinks is right.
Ask Gibbs' former colleagues on the county Board of Appeals, where he served from 1984 to 1989, and you get quite a different story. They describe a man with inflexible opinions, who interpreted the county code rigidly and was not well-liked.
Glenn Gibbs? "You just have to say he's a nice man," said GOP Central Committee member Joan Beck.
Glenn Gibbs? "I always felt uncomfortable around him," said Bill Edmonston, a Board of Appeals member. "I got the feeling there was a facade there, and you didn't know what was behind it and you were almost afraid to find out."
Since Gibbs resigned from the Board of Appeals Jan. 1 to run against Lamb, the former CIA cartographer, geographer and political/military analyst has been all but ignored in the 1990 political campaign.
Overshadowed by Lamb's well-publicized conflicts with city officials over the Annapolis landfill and other issues, Gibbs deliberately has never capitalized on the councilwoman's troubles. A friend of Lamb's and her appointee to the Board of Appeals, Gibbs admits he ran because he wants to break the Democratic monopoly on the County Council, not because he thinks Lamb has done a bad job.
Unlike his primary opponent, Patrick Ogle, who attacked Lamb at all turns, Gibbs agrees with Lamb -- or, at least, holds similar positions -- on most of of the 6th District's major issues.
If elected, Gibbs said he wants to end antagonism between the county and Annapolis. "I want to bring the city and the county together," he said. "I want to come in as a mediator rather than a combatant.
"The present actors on the scene seem to have gotten themselves into a situation where it's difficult to be neutral and objective. A new face, a new actor on the scene, and we'll be able to get some of these problems solved."
Asked to pinpoint their differences, Lamb said, "He's a man and I'm a woman . . . and I have a lot more experience than he does."
Lamb, a school board member from 1973 to 1982, is seeking her third council term. But she says her political experience is a double-edged sword in a campaign against someone like Gibbs, who has similar views but has never had to make difficult decisions.
"The longer you are in office, the more decisions you have to make," says Lamb, 68. "I have made a lot of decisions. Those decisions always please some and make others angry. When you're not in office, you don't make others angry. You have a clean slate."
Four years ago, Lamb waged a tough primary election campaign against former Annapolis Alderman Brad Davidson, who was highly critical of the councilwoman. She defeated him by a better than 2-1 margin. Though Gibbs is a friendlier opponent, Lamb says this election is "every bit as difficult," because of controversy that has dogged her over several key issues.
Her recent vote in favor of a 16-story building in Parole was unpopular with environmentalists and residents; even Gibbs, who favors intense development in Parole, said he wouldn't have voted for the 16 stories.
A bigger problem for Lamb has been her opposition to the Annapolis landfill expansion and her poor relationship with city officials, many of whom accuse her of being uncooperative and insensitive to city needs. City leaders blamed Lamb for a 9-cent property tax hike and increases in water, sewer and refuse fees they attributed to the impending loss of the landfill.
One Republican city alderman, Wayne Turner, has pledged to work against Lamb's re-election. And one high-ranking city Democrat noted that even with party members unifying before the Nov. 6 election, "There's more than one elected Democratic official who wouldn't be upset if she lost, and probably would applaud."
Most Democratic leaders say Lamb's chances of losing are slim. Her fiercest opponents seem to be city leaders, not rank-and-file voters. And political observers generally do not consider Gibbs strong enough to beat her.
"Glenn is absolutely unknown politically. He has come out with absolutely nothing," said John Coshe, a Republican working for Lamb. "I wish we had been able to field a strong GOP candidate. We didn't. At least (Lamb) knows her way around."