Schafer stresses issues, makes candidacy official

June 08, 1994|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Sun Staff Writer

H. Erle Schafer attempted to end speculation yesterday that he would pull out of the county executive race and run for the state House of Delegates instead.

As proof, the Glen Burnie businessman released a 10-page document outlining proposals to combat crime and improve education in the county during a formal announcement of his campaign at La Fontaine Bleu in Glen Burnie.

"Up until now, everybody has been talking about politics and what politicians are supporting what candidates," said Mr. Schafer, a former state senator and County Councilman. "This campaign is not about politics; it's about issues. I hope to set the tone of the campaign by discussing the issues."

Mr. Schafer, 56, is the third prominent Democrat since Friday to announce or restate his intentions. The others are state Del. Theodore J. Sophocleus of Linthicum and Robert Agee, an aide to former County Executive O. James Lighthizer.

Calling their successive announcements unusual, state Del. Michael Busch, an Annapolis Democrat, said the three appear to be jockeying for volunteers and financial support.

"I think they are all feeling each other out, letting possible supporters know they are still in the race," Mr. Busch said. "But I think it's going to be hard for the three of them to raise the money they need. . . . I don't think all three of them will stay in the race."

If they do stay in the race, Mr. Busch said the crowded field could help two less-known candidates, former County Councilman William Brill, an Annapolis security consultant, and Cpl. Larry Walker, a county police officer.

Mr. Schafer, who has campaigned in every local election since 1970, noted that it is the first time he has ever put his campaign promises in writing.

He said he wants to increase the number of police officers on the streets and the technology available to them to fight crime. However, he offered no specifics for financing the proposals. He did pledge not to raise either the local income tax or the county property tax rates.

Mr. Schafer said he wants to change the way the county manages its schools, starting with the selection of the school board. He said he favors an elected board, directly responsible to voters, or one appointed by the county executive. The panel, which makes independent policy decisions, is appointed by the governor on the recommendation of a county nominating convention.

"This is much harder for me to do than anything I've ever done before," said Mr. Schafer, referring to the six months spent drafting the document. But, he added, "I wanted to let [voters] know this wasn't an off-the-cuff [decision]."

This is not Mr. Schafer's first run for county executive. Despite the support of most Democratic Party officials in 1982, he finished third in a three-way race between County Councilman George Bachman and Mr. Lighthizer.

The lack of a strong platform may have been Mr. Schafer's downfall 12 years ago, Mr. Busch said. "If he wants to win this time, he must be issue oriented."

In 1990, Mr. Schafer lost his bid for a second term as the clerk of the Circuit Court to Republican Mary Rose.

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