Dundalk councilman won't seek re-election

February 02, 1994|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Sun Staff Writer

Swept into office in 1990 by a wave of voter anger over rising taxes and government spending, the Baltimore County Council's most determined budget-cutter has announced that he will not seek a second term.

Dundalk's Donald Mason, 67, cited "personal reasons" for his decision but declined to discuss them. Mr. Mason said he plans to remain active in community and county affairs after his retirement in December.

No potential replacement has filed to run from Dundalk's 7th District, although Del. Louis L. DePazzo, a 7th District Democrat, has said he plans to seek the seat.

Filing deadline in July

Mr. DePazzo said Mr. Mason's decision did not surprise him, and said other potential candidates might be "waiting in the wings."

The filing deadline is in July.

"I think Don has done a great job," County Executive Roger B. Hayden said yesterday.

Although he is a Democrat, Mr. Mason often voted with the three Republican members of the seven-member council, giving them control and helping Mr. Hayden, also a Republican.

"I wish he would run again," said council Chairman William A. Howard IV, a Republican from Fullerton. Mr. Howard, at 31 the youngest council member, is Mr. Mason's closest council ally.

Most council members have praised Mr. Mason's sincerity and singleness of purpose in budget-cutting, although several said he had little influence on sweeping budget cuts that were forced by the recession, rather than political action.

In a written statement this week, Mr. Mason said he was never "interested in an extended political career."

He also acknowledged that "my critics viewed me a single-issue candidate," but he defended his budget-cutting campaign on the grounds that "virtually every issue that comes before the County Council involves the expenditure of tax dollars."

Budget still the issue

He said the budget "remains the overriding issue of 1994."

The Bethlehem Steel retiree was a visible presence at public hearings for 10 years before he ran for office in 1990.

Mr. Mason often argued that the county tax rate should decline each year to compensate for annual increases in property tax assessments.

He won his seat by defeating two other Democratic candidates by 2-1 margins in the 1990 primary.

He faced only token opposition in the general election, in which incumbent County Executive Dennis F. Rasmussen and five council incumbents were defeated.

But his cause was largely overshadowed during his term of office by larger events -- namely the recession -- which forced more than $90 million worth of cuts in the county's $1 billion budget.

The county laid off nearly 300 workers and eliminated more than 1,000 county jobs, a reduction unprecedented in county history.

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