Hantman may run for executive

May 05, 1994|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Sun Staff Writer

Former Democratic Central Committee Chairwoman Sue-Ellen Hantman is making 1994 look like 1990 all over again. Almost.

She said yesterday that she is leaning very strongly toward making a run against County Executive Charles I. Ecker, who, despite a late entrance into the executive's race four years ago, beat a popular, seemingly invincible incumbent.

Ms. Hantman thinks she can do the same thing. She said yesterday that she would make a decision within the next two weeks.

"If I run, I won't be a sacrificial lamb," Ms. Hantman said. "There is too much work [campaigning], and it is too important a job."

The question she has to answer, Ms. Hantman said, is whether she is willing to campaign hard enough to win. "I don't underestimate by any stretch the work required in the next six months," she said.

Democratic insiders began approaching the 49-year-old Columbia attorney late last year about a potential candidacy against Mr. Ecker, a Republican, telling her it was something she should do for herself and for the party.

"I had to ask myself, 'Can I do the job, and do I want it?' " she said. "I've answered 'yes' to the first question. I am still thinking about the second, but I am inclined to think that I do want it enough."

If Ms. Hantman enters the race -- first for the primary, then the general election -- her circumstances would be nearly identical to those Mr. Ecker experienced in 1990 when he defeated Democrat Elizabeth Bobo in an election upset that startled nearly everyone.

Although no one has stepped forward to challenge Mr. Ecker -- he, too. must run in the primary first -- he has been expecting that possibility for months and mentioned it again when he announced his bid for re-election April 5.

"Four years ago, they said I can't win," Mr. Ecker told about 80 supporters outside his home when announcing his candidacy. "Today, they say I can't lose. I didn't believe it then. I don't believe it now.I'm not taking anything for granted."

Democratic Central Committee member Charles A. Acquard is one of those urging Ms. Hantman to run. "It is not too late," he said, because "the voters haven't really focused in on the 1994 election. Any candidate can get out there and run a credible campaign -- and win.

"We're in sort of the same position Chuck Ecker was. No one thought he had a chance, but he ran a very aggressive, smart campaign and won."

There is no reason why Ms. Hantman can't do the same thing this year, Mr. Acquard said.

One of the things fellow Democrats find attractive about Ms. Hantman is that she is a proven vote-getter and a seasoned campaigner.

She was unsuccessful in her races for the House of Delegates in 1982 and 1986, but she outpolled all other Democrats in the 1986 election. In 1990, she was the top vote-getter on a slate of more than 20 candidates for the Democratic Central Committee. The committee elected her its chairwoman, a post she held until December.

A county resident for 21 years, Ms. Hantman worked for almost 10 years as an assistant state's attorney before entering private practice in Columbia. She was a member of the county Planning Board for 10 years.

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