Increasing Republican registration in the county over the past four years and anti-incumbent sentiment had a lot to do with it. But the three new GOP members of the county's Annapolis delegation are convinced that "hard work" really made the difference in the end.
"I think primarily we just outworked them," said Chris McCabe, who unseated Democrat Edward J. Kasemeyer in District 14. "Kasemeyer did a lot of direct mail and telephone calling, but that can't substitute for people out there."
Also sharing in a statewide Republican party resurrection, Marty Madden and John Morgan defeated Democratic incumbents William C. Bevan and Robert J. DiPietro for the two House of Delegate seats in District 13-B.
"No. 1, John Morgan and I worked extremely hard on what we set out to do -- run a positive, grass roots campaign," said Madden, 41, who started campaigning over a year ago for a delegate seat in 13-B, which includes southern and eastern Howard County and the Laurel area of Prince George's County.
"We met people on a one-to-one basis and established a personal relationship with the voters," he said.
Republicans now outnumber Democrats on the county's nine-member legislative delegation by 5 to 4. The legislative victories, combined with GOP wins in the county executive and second district council races, signal a turning point in the county's political scene, observers say.
"We now have a two-party system in Howard County," said Delegate Robert Kittelman, who, with fellow Republican Delegate Robert Flanagan, fought off challenges by James Kraft and Lloyd Knowles to retain their District 14-B seats.
"Party affiliation is no longer the determiner of the race," Kittelman said.
The county's Republican Central Committee has been preparing for the 1990 election for the past four years, mounting Republican registration drives, recruiting volunteers and targeting young party members and new county residents.
Since 1986, the number of registered Republicans in the county has increased from 24,358 to 34,767.
Even the defeated incumbents acknowledge that their challengers put on an impressive display of industriousness.
"They worked hard," said DiPietro, who took office 10 months ago after being appointed to succeed resigning delegate Sue Buswell. "They touched all the right buttons, they had a lot of help and they did a good job."
All candidates agreed that a high GOP voter turnout in the county also worked in the Republicans' favor.
"We ran very well on the PG (Prince George's) side, we lost the race on the Howard county side, which didn't surprise me," said DiPietro.
Kasemeyer said a low voter turnout in Columbia, typically a Democratic stronghold, hurt his chances considerably.
"If they had turned out in the same numbers as Ellicott City, I probably could have won," he said.
Despite the candidates' demonstrated talent for campaigning, Bevan, who served two terms in the state House, questions how effective these Republican newcomers can be in Annapolis.
"I think Howard County is going to suffer in Annapolis," Bevan said.
"It's going to be difficult to be as successful as we've been over the last 4 years with an overwhelming majority of Democrats in the legislature and a Democratic governor."
Clarksville insurance agent Madden got 31 percent of the vote in the District 13-B race. Morgan, 26, an engineer with the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, captured the second house seat with 25 percent of the district's vote.
Madden and Morgan criticized the incumbents as being ineffective in their roles as legislators and stressed the need for independent voices and a stronger two-party system in the General Assembly.
Throughout their campaign, the two promised they could work together as a team to pass ethics legislation to prevent Howard and Prince George's county council members from voting on zoning decisions involving developers who contributed to their campaigns.
Madden and Morgan claimed that their opponents voted against such legislation in the last General Assembly session. But Bevan and DiPietro viewed their challenger's assertions as misleading. They said the bill had a loophole that allowed council members to benefit from developers' contributions if they were on a slate with the county executive or legislators.
"This is a very scary time for the public, people are very fearful," DiPietro said. "When that happens and you go out and say 'no new taxes, stop growth, we're going to spend a lot more money on education,' those are the things that make people feel good."
A development officer at the Johns Hopkins Hospital and School of Medicine, McCabe got 51 percent of the vote in District 14, which includes Ellicott City, west Columbia, Clarksville, West friendship and a portion of Montgomery county.
McCabe, who lost to Kasemeyer in 1986, attacked the incumbent for accepting campaign contributions from political action committees, a practice that McCabe says is corrupting the political process.
"I think that message got through," said McCabe. "People said 'that's right, we want a different type of politician in office.' " Kasemeyer said the PAC issue had no effect on the outcome of the race.
"It was obviously a rejection of the Democrats," he said.