The first shot of the 1994 Baltimore County Executive's race has been fired, with incumbent Roger Hayden's decision to dismiss a veteran county liquor board inspector who is a top political staffer of C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger, the County Council chairman who is expected to run against Mr. Hayden.
Nothing personal, the self-avowed anti-pol Mr. Hayden said by way of explanation: "We just thought that a change made sense."
Isn't that what the French mobs said just before they put Marie Antoinette under the guillotine?
For his part, Democrat Ruppersberger let loose with his strongest public remarks to date against Republican Hayden, saying he should "spend more time creating jobs or fighting crime, instead of worrying about who is running against him."
Mr. Hayden will replace the fired inspector, Robert Barrett, with George Bowler, the president of a Democratic club in Essex and a crony of Essex Del. E. Farrell Maddox. This move is viewed as a way for the executive, a one-time Democrat, to shore up his support on his east county home turf, where he trounced then-executive Dennis Rasmussen, another east sider, in the 1990 election. Last Sunday, in fact, Mr. Hayden held a Dundalk fund-raiser that was attended by many area Democrats.
During the past year in which he has served as council chairman, Mr. Ruppersberger has been careful not to get locked in political struggles with Mr. Hayden. Maybe too careful, as when the chairman and his council colleagues took the highly unusual step of rubber-stamping Mr. Hayden's budget for fiscal 1994. In January, though, when Councilman Doug Riley of Towson will probably become chairman, Mr. Ruppersberger can assume more of an adversarial role toward Mr. Hayden.
The same can be anticipated from Democratic Councilman Mel Mintz of Pikesville, another possible candidate for the executive's office. It should also prove interesting to see how Messrs. Mintz and Ruppersberger approach (attack?) each other the council chambers as the race heats up.
To the list of potential bidders for the office, add State Sen. Nancy Murphy of Arbutus and District Court Judge John C. Coolahan, a feisty former state senator who likewise lives on the west side. That would make four Democratic candidates from Baltimore County's western half; Republican Hayden should reign over the eastern half. By giving a political plum to Mr. Bowler, Mr. Hayden didn't hurt his standing in that key part of the county.