Perot supporters feel right at home in Route 2 abode Severna Park house serves as county HQ for would-be candidate

July 16, 1992|By Angela Gambill | Angela Gambill,Staff Writer

To many Severna Park old-timers hanging out at the local drugstore, Ross Perot is no knight in shining armor.

In this largely Republican enclave, he's seen as something even better -- a good businessman.

From senior citizens to small-business owners, Severna Park residents are flocking to the nearest Perot headquarters, located in a donated home along Ritchie Highway.

The "Perot in '92" sign looks slightly out of place on the lawn of the same house that served as headquarters for Republican Robert R. Neall in 1990.

But the Perot campaign headquarters for Northern Anne Arundel County, located in a modest brick and stucco home along Route 2, suits Perot supporters there just fine.

"Everything has been done by volunteers, right out to the big sign up front," said volunteer Tom Nolan, 56.

Maryland Perot offices opened April 24 in Annapolis. The office on Ritchie Highway in Severna Park was donated to the committee by the owner, Eleanor O'Neil of Baltimore. Mrs. O'Neil offered to have a phone installed for the Perot campaign and is paying the utilities during the campaign.

"I have never been personally involved in politics in my life," said Mrs. O'Neil, a Republican who owns property in several parts of Anne Arundel County. "But we need somebody with some good common sense to come in here and really swing a stick.

"We have been living in a dreamworld. When Bush said there was no recession a few months ago, I said, 'My God, that is either the most stupid individual or the most insulting.' I'm through with him. But I don't trust the Democratic Party," said Mrs. O'Neil.

Betty Allred, a retired secretary, has volunteered with the campaign since the group began collecting signatures to put Perot on the ballot in Maryland.

"I am very, very worried about the deficit, and they aren't doing anything now," she said. "Government is the largest business going. I know he can't fix things overnight. But a man who was successful in business in real life would know enough about the ins and outs to point us in the right direction."

Perot supporters who joined Severna Park's July Fourth parade along Benfield Road received applause, words of encouragement and only one negative response, said Dan Tewell, campaign manager for northern Anne Arundel.

"We're doing well here," he said.

In the petition drive to put Mr. Perot on the Maryland ballot, Anne Arundel supporters garnered 23,807 signatures, or 13.87 percent of the county's registered voters. That put Anne Arundel second among Maryland counties, after Montgomery County with 31,542 signatures, Mr. Tewell said.

Collected signatures have not been broken down by neighborhoods in Anne Arundel, but many Severna Park volunteers said their neighbors also support the candidate.

"A number of neighbors in my community signed the ballot," said Mrs. Allred. "When we collected signatures at Dawson's [Liquor Mart] and at Clement's [Hardware Store], everyone seemed eager to sign up."

Like Perot supporters around the nation, the Severna Park residents obsess about one issue -- the economy.

"He's talking as a darn good businessman talks, and the government is business," said Mr. Nolan, a computer consultant and registered independent who supervises the area's Perot volunteers.

Now that the petition drive is essentially over, local Perot workers are focusing their energy on encouraging citizens to register to vote.

Most of the volunteers have taken a course from the superintendent of elections in Glen Burnie, which enables them to fill out registration forms for would-be voters.

"We're happy to hand carry the form in and give the person a receipt," said Mr. Nolan. "Anything to sign up voters, to keep people from becoming complacent."

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