Leaders for Tough Times Election '90

November 01, 1990

In good times, electing local leaders is easy. Tough economic times make this task far more difficult -- and more crucial. In selecting county executives in the four home-rule subdivisions around Baltimore, voters must weigh not only professional qualifications and experience, but each candidate's ability to confront austerity.

The Sun has endorsed Republicans in Anne Arundel and Harford counties and Democrats in Baltimore and Howard.

Anne Arundel County voters have a budget-minded candidate in Republican Robert R. Neall. He established an impressive track record in both private and public arenas, as state drug czar and as vice president for development at the Johns Hopkins Health System. In his 12 years in the House of Delegates, Mr. Neall became one of the legislature's premier budget experts. He is not afraid to take unpopular stands: In 1984, he took the politically painful position of supporting a bill to reduce state employee and teacher pensions because the program was bankrupting the state.

In Harford County, former Bel Air mayor Geoffrey R. Close is another high-caliber Republican candidate. His eight years as mayor have given him invaluable executive seasoning. That, along with his fiscal conservatism, will serve Harford well as that county copes with slumping tax receipts and greater citizen demands.

Baltimore County's Dennis Rasmussen has already proved his mettle in balancing a slower growth pattern and escalating public needs. He has been a prudent executive, despite tax-cap campaign charges to the contrary. Now seasoned, he is well equipped to guide the county through the troubled months ahead.

A like situation exists in Howard County, where a successful track record has earned incumbent Democrat Elizabeth Bobo another four years at the helm. Ms. Bobo is no stranger to tough issues and consensus-building. Shaping this fast-growing, relatively young subdivision has required single-minded determination tempered with generous doses of sensitivity to often at-odds community and business interests.

The implications for voters are clear. Little can be done to avert the economic slowdown and budget shortfalls affecting local governments. But voters do have a say on election day. This is not a time for apathy or party-label voting.

The opportunity also exists to make meaningful strides in righting Maryland's outrageous political imbalance. The exceptional Republican candidates in Anne Arundel and Harford counties make a compelling case for voting across party lines. There are also best-choice GOP candidates running for the council in each of the four counties. They, too, ought to be judged on their merits. The Republican Party has given voters a real choice in these races; voters ought to make the most of it.

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