Ahern Elusive Since Loss Holland Expecting Help With Transition

November 09, 1990|By Elise Armacost | Elise Armacost,Staff writer

As the first flush of his election night upset started to fade Thursday, Carl G. "Dutch" Holland waited in vain for a call from Edward C. "Buddy" Ahern, the four-term Pasadena councilman he defeated.

Ahern had appeared at the Stoney Creek Democratic Club on Election Night, where, looking weary and resigned, he made a brief speech and talked with supporters. Since then, however, there has been no sign of the folksy, colorful District 3 councilman.

A secretary at his Pasadena council office said he was not talking to reporters, that he wanted to be with his family at this time. "It is only two days since the election," she said.

Meanwhile, Holland, wearing sweat pants and a 5 o'clock shadow, relaxed at his Long Point home, mentally adjusting to the fact that he is the new 3rd District representative and mapping out a plan for learning all he can about county government before the council meets Dec. 3.

Holland admits he could use some help.

"I've seen from the other side of the fence for many years," the Republican said. "Now I'm on the inside looking out. It's going to be a learning process for a year until I get my feet on solid ground.

"Unfortunately," he said, "Ahern hasn't called me. If he was a man about this he'd stop sulking . . . and call me and say, 'It's over, but for the good of the district I'd like to talk to you about some of the things I have on the drawing board.' "He hasn't given me the benefit of that yet. I am going into this thing groping."

Ahern told a reporter Tuesday night that he planned to call Holland Wednesday morning, but Holland said he had not heard from him by yesterday evening.

Those who know the outgoing councilman speculate that the loss has hit him hard.

"I'll bet he's devastated," said former Councilman Michael F. Gilligan, who lost a bid for county executive in the primary election. "Buddy's whole life was being a councilman from Pasadena. He loved his job, he loved everything about it.

"Out of all the politicians, I feel the sorriest for him because he just lived and breathed being on the council."

Though Ahern won the primary by only 800 votes and despite frequent criticism in the press, he was not expected to lose. In 1986, he beat Holland by a 2-to-1 margin, and this year Republican leaders rarely mentioned Holland as one of their biggest hopes for a council seat.

Ahern's council colleagues said they never saw the upset coming.

"I was amazed," said retiring Councilwoman Carole B. Baker, D-Severna Park. "I didn't have a clue."

"It was a surprise to everyone," said Gilligan.

In retrospect, however, there were signs that Ahern was in trouble.

During his campaign, Holland criticized Ahern for growing out of touch with his constituents, pandering to the "good old boy" network of North County politicians and ignoring contemporary problems.

Gilligan said those accusations were largely unfounded. "He had expanded his horizons after he came back from his illness," he said, referring to Ahern's bout with nervous exhaustion in 1988. "He was genuinely working with (environmentalists and other activists).

"(His defeat) was just the cumulative effect of a whole lot of negative things that were reported over the years, and the whole mood of the electorate in this election. He was ripe for picking."

Mary Rosso, a North County environmentalist who served on Ahern's comprehensive rezoning committee, said the press has been "excruciatingly hard" on Ahern. "He was never given credit. As long as he's been in there they've hounded him. Contrary to what people say, he's very sensitive to those things."

Rosso said she saw Ahern on election night. "He was very resigned. I know he's hurting real bad inside."

"It's sad," Holland said, "but I went through that three times when I lost."

Besides losing to Ahern in 1986, Holland ran unsuccessfully for the House of Delegates in 1978 and 1982. He was a Democrat at that time, switching to the GOP after his 1982 campaign "because my own philosophy was more in line with the Republican party."

Holland, a sales representative for a beverage company, confesses to being "overwhelmed" by the magnitude of his 2,770-vote victory. Ahern won only five of the district's 18 precincts.

"I knew something was going to happen, but I never thought it would happen to the degree that it did happen," Holland said.

Now that he's elected, Holland said he wants to start a "community council" made up of representatives from each community association in the 3rd District, which runs from the Baltimore city line to the Magothy River and west to Route 2.

"We'll meet monthly to discuss what's going on in the district. I will be hearing feedback from them about what's going on in the community, and they will be kept informed about what's going on on the council.

"My philosophy of government is to bring all the people in to the process. I am going to be effective and responsive, and give people back a say in local government."

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