Hayden plays it cool at fund-raiser

April 11, 1994|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Sun Staff Writer

Even with his job on the line this election year and a friendly crowd before him, Baltimore County Executive Roger B. Hayden never mentioned the obvious at his Timonium fund-raiser Wednesday night.

Although he collected more than $100,000 for his re-election campaign and plans to open campaign offices by June, his remarks to the 2,000 people attending didn't include the words "election" or "vote," or even "me."

It was a typical Hayden approach. The money the Republican incumbent raised gives him nearly three times as much as he spent to win the office in 1990, but his tactic of portraying himself as a businessman -- instead of a partisan politician -- hasn't changed. Politicians in the crowd said more Democrats than Republicans showed up -- also typical in the predominantly Democratic county.

"We have taken care of problems in three years that people said you couldn't handle," he told the crowd. "The direction of government in Baltimore County has changed. It is better, more efficient. . . . If we're going to be successful in the future, we've got to stick together," he concluded, standing under a "HAYDEN FOR GOOD GOVERNMENT" banner.

It's a strategy that has been successful so far, despite the severe budget crunch, personal problems and even weather woes that Mr. Hayden has endured. Those issues have drawn criticism from seven potential opponents, including one from his own Republican Party.

His problems include the recession-based loss of more than $90 million in revenue that led him to raise local income taxes, close libraries and senior centers and lay off hundreds of county workers; a nasty divorce and accusations of sexual harassment by a former secretary; and two icy winters that drew complaints about road-clearing efforts.

"He's a good one," Perry Hall community activist Dorothy McMann said, chuckling at what she said is Mr. Hayden's skill at camouflaging his political ambition and motives.

And although Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, the 2nd District Republican, told the crowd that "Nobody's perfect," and that "Sure, he's made a few mistakes," she also said that Mr. Hayden has "done a super job."

The fund-raiser was typically low-key. Tickets were $50, half the price that Catonsville Sen. Nancy L. Murphy, a Democratic candidate for county executive, charged to get into a much tonier affair she held at Martin's West last week.

Mr. Hayden's supporters made do with concrete floors, folding chairs and paper plates filled with sausage, beef and sheet cake. The music included bagpipers and a '50s rock 'n' roll group, with a Frank-Sinatra-style crooner in between.

And while those present included the usual well-dressed crowd of developers, lawyers, county workers, trash haulers and political operatives, many were more casually dressed people rarely seen at higher-priced, fancier affairs.

Lest anyone forget Mr. Hayden's need for Democratic support in a county where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 2 1/2 -to-1, the executive made a point of introducing to the crowd only one other politician besides Mrs. Bentley.

"My good friend Dale Anderson," Mr. Hayden said, as he gestured toward the former county executive and stalwart of the old Eastside Democratic organization that dominated county politics for years.

Mr. Anderson was forced from office after his 1974 conviction on federal corruption charges. After serving time in prison, Mr. Anderson won election to the House of Delegates in 1982. Mr. Hayden, school board president at the time, said that's when they became friends.

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