Sights Set On '94, Leopold Gets Early Start On Legwork

Former Delegate Stumps Through County Neighborhoods

January 26, 1992|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff writer

Is John Leopold on the campaign trail again? Does the sun rise in the East?

A year after he lost a hotly contested state Senate race, the former state delegate is back doing what he may do best.

For several weeks, Leopold has been walking neighborhoods throughout the county, from Arnold to Maryland City, wooing the voters he hopes will send him back to Annapolis in 1994.

For now, he has his sights set on the county executive's job -- but only if the RepublicanRobert R. Neall leaves the post to run for governor, says Leopold, who has spent the last several years trying to combat his maverick image within the GOP.

A veteran of 14 campaigns in Maryland and Hawaii, Leopold says he has other options, should Neall seek re-election. He may try for his old District 31 seat in the House of Delegates, orhe may set his sights higher.

"If you remember, I ran for governor as a young man in Hawaii, and I always thought in the back of my mind I might try that again sometime," Leopold says.

He says he has no interest in Congress -- unless drafted -- or the state Senate.

"I think (state Sen.) Phil Jimeno proved he's a very popular incumbent, especially in his own Brooklyn Park neighborhood," Leopold says, chuckling at Jimeno's surprising victory in their November 1990 contest.

Leopold, who had campaigned for nearly two years for county executive before Neall's entry into that race forced him into a bid for the District 31 Senate seat, was the prohibitive favorite. He enjoyedenormous name recognition among voters for a State House candidate and had a $163,000 campaign war chest, unprecedented in that district.

"This is a tough district for a Republican to win. As you know, Iwas the first Republican delegate elected there in 1982. It may be the toughest district in the county," Leopold says.

Three weeks before the election, Leopold's private polls showed him with a comfortable five-point lead over his rival. "I went in thinking it would be a close race. Then the Democrats hit me with that barrage, it was like a tidal wave," he says.

Ranking Democratic officials -- including Gov. William Donald Schaefer -- paraded through the district, which stretches from Brooklyn Park to Severna Park, promoting Jimeno and pumping nearly $100,000 into the senator's campaign.

Del. Joan Cadden, D-Brooklyn Park, who now fills the House seat Leopold vacated, saysher predecessor will have an equally difficult time trying to get his old seat back. "If he wants his old office back, he's going to haveto fight me for it," said Cadden. "I'm working hard and think I'm doing a pretty good job."

Pat Troy, president of the Greater SevernaPark Council, said she found Leopold on her doorstep last week.

"It kind of took me by surprise because I didn't expect anyone to be campaigning so soon after the last election," Troy said. "But I guess if you are a politician that's what you do."

Leopold, 48, is famous for the year-round, door-to-door, shoe-leather campaigns he refinedas a young Turk in Hawaii. Too young to run for political office in his native Philadelphia, Leopold moved to Hawaii in 1967, winning successive elections to the statewide Board of Education, House of Representatives and state Senate.

His career there climaxed -- and faltered -- when he lost a 1978 gubernatorial bid.

In the 15 months since his loss to Jimeno, Leopold has kept busy as a presidential appointee on the National Council on Disabilities, which reviews new laws and regulations. A former teacher, he also has worked as a paid educational consultant to the Regional Council of Appalachian States.

But Leopold itched to get back on the campaign trail. "I really prize that personal contact with the voters," he says. "That's what I really value."

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