District 1 Council Race Is Seen As A Mismatch

November 02, 1990|By Elise Armacost | Elise Armacost,Staff writer

Republican Gerald P. Starr isn't running against an incumbent in the District 1 County Council race, but he may as well be.

His Democratic opponent, George F. Bachman, 69, does not appear to have lost one iota of political strength since he left the council eight years ago to pursue a bid for county executive. Bachman lost that contest, but today he is remembered less for that loss than for his 18 years of council service.

Starr, 49, a financial administrator for Westinghouse Electric Corp., has an impressive record of civic activism and has been involved politically all his life.

Even so, observers give Starr little chance of beating Bachman -- who defeated him in a 1974 council race -- in Tuesday's general election.

"It's like a lightweight contender getting in the heavyweight's ring.

George is just head and shoulders above him," said former Councilman and state Senator H. Erle Schafer, now Anne Arundel's Clerk of the Circuit Court. Schafer and Bachman served on the council at the same time.

"I ran against (Bachman, in the 1982 county executive's race), and I wouldn't want to be running against him in his district," Schafer said.

"He's very strong in Linthicum. Everybody who knows George likes him . . .

and for a person who's been in politics a long time, that's something to say."

"George's name recognition and years of service on the council are certainly a plus," said outgoing District 1 Councilman Theodore J.

Sophocleus, the Democratic nominee for county executive. "Jerry's going to have to do a lot of work."

Charles R. Serio, a member of the county's Republican Central Committee, said he's seen plenty of Starr signs and mailers. "He's certainly a competent campaigner. But Bachman's an old war horse. It's going to take an extraordinary Republican to be able to overcome George Bachman."

No one has labeled Starr "extraordinary," but by the same token, no one disputes his credibility.

"He's a qualified person," said Sophocleus. "If he's elected, he'll make a good council person."

Perhaps Starr's strongest asset is his financial background. He has been a financial administrator at Westinghouse for 17 years, responsible for allocating budgets, cost estimates and cost scheduling. With this fiscal experience and his conservative ideas about spending, Starr fits in with the current economic mood.

A former Democrat, Starr switched parties 16 years ago because of his fiscal ideology. "I pretty much thought as a Republican," he says. "I was very conservative in my thinking on finances."

Of this year's Republican candidates, Starr may be the most conservative of all. He is, in fact, the only candidate of either party to endorse a charter amendment to limit county property tax revenue increases to 4.5 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower.

"I've been encouraging people to vote for Question D," which is how the tax cap question will be labeled on the ballot, Starr said. "I've been telling them, 'This is your check. You can write it however you want.' " Unlike other county leaders and candidates, who predict the tax cap will create a shortfall and spell doom for many public services, Starr does not believe there will be a shortage.

Instead of increasing taxes on homeowners, the county can find new sources of revenue through an increase in hotel and motel user rates and creation of special taxing districts for industrial and commercial parks, Starr said.

He advocates a freeze on county hiring until each department can be evaluated, as well as reducing the county work force through attrition.

"I'm not talking about layoffs. I mean when people quit or die, we should review their positions and see where those jobs could be slid into other jobs."

Starr also wants to repeal the county's new pension law, which, among other things, allows county employees to retire at age 50. "It's totally unfair," he says. "Most other people can't retire until they're 60 or 65.

This bill is going to cost the county millions and millions of dollars."

Starr has vowed not to touch police and fire budgets. He suspects, however, that the school budget is top-heavy with administration and could be cut.

Bachman, in contrast, opposes the tax cap, saying responsibility for collecting reasonable property taxes belongs to County Council members. "If the County Council doesn't do its job right, they can be removed from office in the next election," he said.

Bachman said he won't propose any budget cuts until he actually sees the new county executive's budget next May.

A retired machinist for the B & O Railroad (now CSX Corp.), Bachman was elected to Anne Arundel's first County Council in 1965. He was re-elected to four consecutive terms and served as council chairman for nine of those 18 years.

Bachman was a popular politician who has kept his old contacts, kept politicking even after his 1982 defeat and continues to have good name recognition, observers say.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.