Schrader builds funds, confidence for '94 campaign

March 08, 1993|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff Writer

Republican Dennis Schrader says you can pencil him in as the 1st District county councilman in 1994.

Actually, he says more than that. He says he is so certain he will win in 1994 that you can write his name in indelible ink.

"I promise you we will be on the council in 1994," he told a crowd of186 supporters at a $25-a-person fund-raiser in Savage last week.

It doesn't matter to Mr. Schrader that the seat is in Democratic hands and that council Chairwoman Shane Pendergrass is working to ensure that the redistricting required by the 1990 census will keep it that way.

When a guest at last week's fund-raiser asked Mr. Schrader's wife, Sandra, whether she is worried that he might gerrymandered out of his district, she laughed. "It won't make any difference," she said. "Whatever district they put him in, he'll run. And he'll win."

Local elections are unpredictable, but the Schrader camp says its optimism is well founded.

Mr. Schrader lost to Ms. Pendergrass by 282 votes in 1990, and this time he may have only token opposition. Ms. Pendergrass has said she will not seek re-election to a third term on the council, preferring instead to run for a General Assembly seat or for county executive.

Other 1st District Democrats seem to be eschewing the seat. Those who, like Columbia Democratic Club President Wanda Hurt have hinted that they might run for political office in 1994, are looking to Annapolis rather than to Ellicott City.

And there's money. It cost more than $31,000 to win the 1st District seat in the last election, and it should cost at least that much in 1994.

With no other candidate having announced yet, Mr. Schrader more than $12,000 in the bank, including the nearly $5,000 he raised at last week's fund-raiser.

In addition, many heavy hitters -- developers, business people and other big contributors -- appear to be solidly behind Mr. Schrader.

But Charles A. Acquard, a 1st District resident and member of the local Democratic Central Committee, says it may be a little early for the Republicans to start thinking of Mr. Schrader as Councilman Schrader.

Mr. Schrader's lead is not insurmountable, Mr. Acquard says, even if he has collected a third of the money he may need for his campaign.

Democrats believe the council seats now held by C. Vernon Gray, D-3rd, and Paul R. Farragut, D-4th, are safe and that candidates for those council seats might share their campaign treasury with a 1st District candidate, Mr. Acquard said. He believes the money needed for a successful campaign will be there when needed.

"Dennis is a formidable candidate, but I think the right Democrat could beat him," Mr. Acquard said. "I personally like the guy. I just don't like his politics. I don't think we should give up so easily. It's a shame we can't get a strong Democrat to run against him."

Republicans say it won't make any difference who the Democrats run against Mr. Schrader. They say they felt good about his chances before Ms. Pendergrass withdrew from the race and feel even better now. They see him following the same route to victory that Darrel Drown, R-2nd, took in 1990.

After he lost to incumbent Democrat Angela Beltram by 822 votes in 1986, Mr. Drown refined his campaign strategy for 1990. He pursued the office relentlessly and got more votes than any other council candidate in the 1990 election. He got 7,890 votes, beating the incumbent by 2,075 votes and getting 2,000 votes more than any Democratic winner.

Republicans expect Mr. Schrader to do the same in 1994. "We'll run a very enthusiastic, high energy campaign," he told supporters last week. "We're well organized, and this time we'll be over the top. We'll be on the ground running -- early and often."

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