Acquard takes on GOP's Schrader for council seat Democrat inspired by foe's 'arrogance'

November 02, 1993|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff Writer

His wife teaches, but Columbia Democrat Charles A. Acquard wants to give a lesson.

The person he wants to school is Republican Dennis Schrader, who earlier this year promised supporters he would be on the County Council in 1994.

Mr. Acquard, 36, hopes to negate that promise by winning the seat being vacated by Council Chairwoman Shane Pendergrass, D-1st. Ms. Pendergrass plans to run for a General Assembly seat in 1994.

When Mr. Schrader made his victory promise last March, the district he lost to Ms. Pendergrass by only 282 votes in 1990 was still being redrawn. It also appeared the Democrats would offer him only token opposition.

But during the recent redistricting of the county, most precincts Mr. Schrader won in 1990 were carved out of the district. Democrats now hold a sizable numerical advantage in a redrawn district that once included Elkridge. It includes the southeastern part of the county from Owen Brown to Kings Contrivance to North Laurel.

Nonetheless, Mr. Schrader's earlier promise provoked Mr. Acquard's ire.

"If he's that arrogant as a candidate, imagine how arrogant he will be as a public official," Mr. Acquard said. "We need a candidate who has experience and good judgment -- not just arrogance."

Mr. Acquard says he is just such a candidate. A Washington lobbyist for municipally owned utilities, Mr. Acquard dedicates part of his six-week leave each year to public service.

Mr. Acquard is a former chairman and six-year member of the Columbia Association Board of Directors. He currently serves on the boards of the county Community Action Council and the county Housing Alliance.

Mr. Acquard said he "sort of stumbled" into Columbia Association politics shortly after moving to the Village of Kings Contrivance in 1985.

People in the Dickinson neighborhood wanted a pool, and Mr. Acquard used his lobbying skills to help convince the Columbia Association to build one for them.

Under his leadership, the Columbia Association made a number of improvements, Mr. Acquard said, including expanded programs, reduction of the deficit, and the first-ever reduction in the assessment fee the association charges Columbia residents and businesses.

"I just love being in Howard County, but the best is yet to come," Mr. Acquard said. "We have serious challenges in the 21st century. I want to play a role in shaping that future."

Mr. Acquard is proud of his work on Capitol Hill.

"Dennis [Schrader] spent the past seven years running for office; I spent the last seven in public service," Mr. Acquard said. "Unless you've been in a public body like the Columbia Association, unless you've worked in Washington, you don't have the experience of pressure to say 'yes' or 'no' " on a particular issue.

"I am used to working with diverse coalitions. That's why I think I can go to Ellicott City and work with all the members of county government -- both Democrat and Republican," he said.

Mr. Acquard says small class sizes are one of the reasons Howard County boasts one of the leading school systems in the state.

Other issues facing the next council, he said, are increased crime, solid waste disposal and economic development.

"We've got to get our house in order," he said. "We need to bring business to the county and keep businesses already here -- don't let them get away."

If that sounds like he is pro-development, he is, as long as the development is "qualitative rather than quantitative," Mr. Acquard said. "If development means our quality of life improves, that's good development. I don't want to have growth with no regard for the quality of life in the county."

Asked how much it will take to win a seat on the council, Mr. Acquard says "too much" -- at least $20,000, not including a primary race. Other Democrats are expected to file for the seat vacated by Ms. Pendergrass, but Mr. Acquard plans to focus almost exclusively on Mr. Schrader.

"I am not able to match him [dollar-wise], but I am planning an aggressive door-to-door grass-roots campaign. I hope at the end to know a lot more about the people and the issues -- things you can't learn if your campaign is based on 30-second TV commercials."

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