County votes GOP again for president, but no one is sure why

November 08, 1992|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff Writer

Just what do Harford County residents, many of them registered Democrats, find so appealing about Republican presidential candidates?

After all, county voters have chosen Republicans -- from Richard Nixon to George Bush -- in each of the last six presidential elections, including Tuesday when they picked Mr. Bush over national winner Bill Clinton by a 5-to-3 ratio.

County political leaders had a tough time agreeing last week on the attraction.

"It's hard to put your finger on," said David S. Shrodes, chairman of Harford County's Democratic Central Committee and a supporter of Mr. Clinton.

"This time they split the ticket, voting for Bush for president; Barbara Mikulski, a Democrat, for Senate; and Helen Bentley, another Republican, for Congress."

And Harford wasn't alone in choosing a Republican for president.

President Bush won 57 percent of the Harford County vote and carried 21 other Maryland jurisdictions, while Mr. Clinton carried only four counties and Baltimore City.

"But those four were the highly populated counties -- Baltimore, Montgomery, Prince George's and Howard counties," noted Mr. Shrodes.

"It's hard to explain, but I think it comes down to economics in Harford. Homes in the Route 152 corridor go for $180,000-plus, and it seems like they're all voting in the Bush column. The more affluent areas are gaining Republicans."

Michael Davall, chairman of the Harford County Republican Central Committee, agreed economics influenced the Harford vote, but offered a different premise.

"Harford County voters are schizophrenically conservative. It's hard to predict what they will do," he said.

"But I thought Bush would do well here because the county's so directly involved with the military and Department of Defense payroll. I think the Bush administration offered a more secure environment for the federal payroll and defense. Bill Clinton offered options for cuts or unknowns."

Mr. Davall also thought the abortion referendum affected the outcome of the election -- just as controversy over a proposal to put a rubble fill on Gravel Hill Road near Havre de Grace affected the last local election. Then, five Democratic members of the seven-member County Council were ousted in favor of three Republicans and two Democrats. Two incumbent Republicans retained their seats.

Harford voters approved the referendum, which ensures a woman's right to an abortion, 53 percent to 47 percent. The abortion vote also influenced the vote for Senator Mikulski, Mr. Davall said.

"Look at Bush and Bentley with big wins, and yet the really conservative candidate for Senate, Alan Keyes, loses," Mr. Davall said.

"It seems like we're moderate conservatives or liberal conservatives. I know that sounds like a dichotomy but it isn't," he said. "We're just slightly to the right of center. It would have been difficult to vote 'yes' for Question 6 and then vote for an extremely conservative, anti-abortion candidate like Keyes."

On why Harford has chosen Republican presidential candidates six times in a row, Mr. Davall replied: "Maybe it's just innate intelligence."

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