Coronation for King Chuck I?

June 08, 1994

To find a heated county executive's race, Howard countians need only glance at any of their neighbor jurisdictions. They needn't bother looking at their own home turf, where, to date, incumbent County Executive Charles I. Ecker has been the only candidate to file for either the primary or general election.

Columbia lawyer Sue-Ellen Hantman, formerly of the Howard Planning Board and the county's Democratic Central Committee, has indicated that she might run in the Democratic primary. But a lack of funds could dissuade her from filing by the July 5 deadline. If neither Ms. Hantman nor anyone else chooses to take on Mr. Ecker, the Republican incumbent will enjoy a highly unusual, uncontested stroll to a second term.

What a contrast to the chief executive campaigns in the other jurisdictions in the Baltimore-Washington corridor.

Next door in Anne Arundel County, where current executive Robert Neall is about to begin a vacation from politics, five candidates are lining up to replace him. One local insider predicts the battle will turn into a "blood bath." Montgomery County Executive Neal Potter has just announced that he will not try for another term, leaving five candidates to fight for his seat. Four Democrats are seeking to succeed Parris Glendening in Prince George's County.

In contentious Baltimore County, ailing Republican Roger Hayden wants a second term as county executive. He will probably have at least one primary opponent. Meanwhile, four major candidates are vying for the Democratic nomination.

Baltimore City's mayoral race is a year away, but already incumbent Kurt L. Schmoke is looking over his shoulder at a challenge from City Council President Mary Pat Clarke.

And in Harford County, incumbent Eileen M. Rehrmann has drawn noisy opposition from Republican challenger Ron Szczybor.

Everywhere else in the region, typically competitive political races. In Howard County? A coronation awaits King Chuck the First.

Does that sound distasteful to residents in fast-growing Howard County? It should. Even if Mr. Ecker has done a perfect job as county executive -- which, by the way, he'd be the first to deny -- the customs of democracy demand that he be made to explain and defend his record on the hustings. Annoying as the babble of politics can be, the alternative of yawning silence is worse.

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