Local Elections: The Starting Lineups

BARRY RASCOVAR

August 08, 1993|By BARRY RASCOVAR

You won't be able to tell the players without a score card innext year's state elections.

Not only is there already a crowded field of gubernatorial candidates, but the lineups in top local races are just as densely populated.

Take the key leadership offices on the local level -- county executive, mayor and county commissioner. In each case, there are plenty of folks frothing at the mouth in anticipation of winning that office.

Part of this is a result of General Assembly redistricting, which has persuaded some lawmakers to examine other career opportunities. Part of it is a result of vacancies likely to occur. But a large part stems from the realization that being chief executive of a county or city is a very powerful post.

Let's take a look at the various executive races in the Baltimore-Washington region. The cast of characters is certainly varied, and the subplots are certainly complex enough for a Wagnerian opera.

* Anne Arundel County. Incumbent Bob Neall has set his sights on running for governor.

Two Republicans are already maneuvering: Del. John Gary and former Del. John Leopold. Mr. Gary starts with far more GOP voters in his Millersville district than the peripatetic Mr. Leopold has in his old North County district.

On the Democratic side, recently appointed Del. Ted Sophocleus narrowly lost to Mr. Neall in 1990 and may try for county executive again; County Council Chairman Dave Boschert can't run for re-election and is looking for another job; popular Del. John Astle has to decide if he wants to be executive or state senator.

* Baltimore City. No race for mayor next year, but if incumbent Kurt Schmoke runs for governor and wins, Council President Mary Pat Clarke takes over. The political ramifications could be explosive.

* Baltimore County. Executive Roger Hayden wants a second term, but his performance in cutting services and county jobs has made him unpopular in some quarters.

A raft of Democrats are eyeing his seat. In the best position is Council President Dutch Ruppersberger, who has made few enemies and rarely seeks controversy. Others mulling a race: Sen. Tom Bromwell, Sen. Nancy Murphy, Sen. Janice Piccinini, Councilman Mel Mintz and Kathleen Townsend, who coordinates student service programs for the state department of education and is Robert Kennedy's daughter.

Then there is state school superintendent Nancy Grasmick, who is being quietly promoted. Why not? The hottest campaign issue could be the county schools.

* Carroll County. Of the three commissioners, two seem likely to run again: Elmer Lippy and Donald Dell; Julia Gouge has her sights on a House of Delegates seat.

Possible contenders include community activist David Duree, former Sykesville Mayor Lloyd Helt, Westminster council members Rebecca Ornstein and Steve Chapin and Mount Airy Mayor Gerald Johnson. The list of commissioner candidates on primary day could be long.

* Harford County. Will incumbent Eileen Rehrmann seek a second term or wind up on a Democratic gubernatorial ticket as lieutenant governor?

Regardless, Council President Jeffrey Wilson, a Republican, has been positioning himself for three years to run for county executive. But the Republican who almost beat Ms. Rehrmann in 1990, former Bel Air Mayor Geoffrey Close, may make another try for the office. And former Councilwoman Barbara Risacher, who ran well against Ms. Rehrmannn in the 1990 Democratic primary, is considering a comeback.

* Howard County. This is the least crowded executive race. Incumbent Republican Chuck Ecker has a lock on the Republican nomination. Democratic hopefuls have been scared off by Mr. Ecker's continuing popularity. Former executive Elizabeth Bobo, though, could take on Mr. Ecker again.

* Montgomery County. It could turn into a Democratic geriatric blood bath. Executive Neal Potter, 78, hasn't decided if he'll run again, but the man he defeated in a bitter primary, former executive Sidney Kramer, 68, has formed an exploratory

committee. Rockville's popular Mayor Douglas Duncan is in the race and Councilman Bruce Adams, who has an at-large seat, will be soon.

Once again, growth -- how much of a stranglehold the executive should apply to residential and business development -- will be the central issue.

* Prince George's County. What a horse race! County Executive Parris Glendening, after three terms, is running for governor. State Sen. Bea Tignor has announced for executive. So has lawyer Wayne Curry. So have Council members Richard Castaldi and Sue Mills.

Ms. Tignor is a protege of Rep. Al Wynn and is backed by the county's state senators. Mr. Curry has a loyal following among businessmen and black professionals and has feuded with the state senators. Mr. Castaldi, the former mayor of populous Greenbelt, has courted homeowner groups. Ms. Mills is a feisty and well-known politician who opposed court-ordered busing.

Ms. Tignor and Mr. Curry are black; Mr. Castaldi and Ms. Mills are white.

Flip a coin and pick the winner.

Barry Rascovar is editorial-page director of The Sun.

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