It Looks Pretty Good for Sophocleus Now

COMMENT

March 06, 1994|By ELISE ARMACOST

Ted's in.

I'm willing to bet lunch at Faye's Dorsey Diner on it.

Ted Sophocleus, the former Anne Arundel County councilman and current state delegate, will run for county executive again, and he'll be the Democratic front-runner.

Make no mistake, he hasn't come out and said he's running. Indeed, he takes painstaking care to let you know that a) his new job as District 32 delegate comes first right now, and, b) he's having a jolly old time in Annapolis.

"I like it down here," he said last week, happily ensconced in his new office at the Lowe House Office Building. "Today was gun control day. Everybody wanted to talk about guns. You should have been here."

It's nice work if you can get it -- three months a year of being at the seat of state power, lots of lobbyists waiting to take you to lunch and fewer hassles than being on the County Council, where, as Mr. Sophocleus knows from experience, being one step closer to the people puts you that much closer to the chopping block when the people don't like something you've done.

As for being county executive, there's a job that ought to come with a lifetime supply of Excedrin. Somebody's always hounding you for something. If it isn't the tax rebels, it's the sheriff. If it isn't the greenies, it's the school board. If you're not listening to people complain, you're cutting a ribbon at some grand opening a Sunday afternoon, just about the time the Redskins game comes on.

And you wonder why Bobby Neall wants out?

"I kind of think I would tell Ted to stay where he is," says Bill Waldecker, chairman of the Anne Arundel Democratic Central Committee.

Me, too.

The guy's got it made.

But, deliberately or not, he gives the definite impression that he's already two-thirds of the way toward deciding to give up his nice, safe seat for another shot at the glory and headaches of life on the fourth floor of the Arundel Center.

It's not just that he has a committee evaluating his chances. It's the way he talks about keeping the House seat as an "alternative," as "another option," rather than as a probability or a preference.

It is also the fact that the political climate is looking pretty balmy from where Mr. Sophocleus sits. If he runs, he's got to be the

primary election favorite.

Who else is there? The only announced candidate at this point is a county police corporal named Larry E. Walker, a complete unknown. County Councilwoman Maureen Lamb once talked about running, but her role in the eternal quest for a county jail site has done her in; her Annapolis district is mad at her for not doing enough to put the jail somewhere else, and North County is mad at her for doing as much as she has to get it built in that neck of the woods.

Sen. Philip Jimeno of Brooklyn Park and Del. Michael Busch of Annapolis are happy where they are. Bob Agee's name has been bandied about, but are voters going to go for an aide to former executive O. James Lighthizer? The Lighthizer era is as out of style as parachute pants.

Former state Sen. H. Erle Schafer of Glen Burnie, long suspected to be itching to get back into politics, is said to be ready to jump in, and former Annapolis councilman William Brill says he's "more in than out." Both have experience on their side. Mr. Schafer is certainly well-known in North County, and he finished a close third in the 1982 executive race. But the prevailing wisdom has it that his political day has come and gone -- especially after he failed to hold on to the relatively minor post of Circuit Court clerk in 1990. The same concern holds for Mr. Brill, who finished a distant fourth in that '82 race and hasn't held an elected office since. (However, his expertise on crime and reputation as an independent-minded, anti-establishment pol have the potential to be assets given the electorate's mood.)

Mr. Waldecker predicts that a slew of candidates are going to "break loose" as soon as the General Assembly ends. Asked who they might be, he concedes that "it's only rumors" he's hearing.

That leaves Ted. He's got the best countywide name recognition of any Democrat around, thanks to the 1990 race he barely lost to Mr. Neall, and a lot of people like him. His biggest negative is the fact that he voted for and benefited by a now-infamous 1989 pension law, but it remains to be seen how skillfully he can deflect that issue or how deep a chord it has struck with voters.

Here's guessing that Ted will take his chances.

That's probably not the smart thing to do. But it seems to be what he wants to do.

*

I made a mistake in my Feb. 13 column. I wrote that school board member Joseph Foster and student representative Desira St. Pierre were the only board members who attended a Feb. 7 meeting at Northeast High School. Ms. St. Pierre was not there, only Mr. Foster. My apologies.

Elise Armacost is The Baltimore Sun's editorial writer in Anne Arundel County.

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