Voters of Anne Arundel County face a tough choice in the county executive's race -- two candidates who are both highly qualified for the job. The difference is largely one of nuance and style -- the technocrat vs. the populist.
Republican Robert Neall is unquestionably competent. His experience in the legislature and as drug czar for Governor Schaefer makes him one of Annapolis' power elite, which could work to Arundel's advantage. Neall's skill on the Appropriations Committee proved his fiscal prowess; he is a consummate number-cruncher who has presented a credible fiscal platform. But it is a bottom-line approach that involves an almost dispassionate discussion of lay-offs and cutbacks. Neall is the ultimate resume candidate -- well-qualified, but somewhat aloof.
Ted Sophocleus, on the other hand, is a man of the people. Like Mayor William Donald Schaefer, he has a common-man persona and the unusual ability to immerse himself in the minutiae of local government -- sewage back-ups, rezoning, potholes, snow removal -- and to respond to constituents' concerns. Though Sophocleus has played up his country druggist image during this campaign, his eight years on the council have given him a refined grasp of budgetary matters. We have no doubt he can manage the county's $617 million budget. If cuts must be made he can find where they can be made with the least human sacrifice. Equally important, Sophocleus knows how to build consensus on -- and with -- the council.