John Gary's Irresponsible Rhetoric

June 23, 1994

Del. John Gary, R-Millersville, had best be careful. He's endangering his reputation by persisting in anti-crime rhetoric that can only be described as fear-mongering demagogy.

Fear of crime is real and not to be ignored, especially by a candidate for Anne Arundel County executive. But Mr. Gary's statements on crime seem designed less to provide solutions than to push hot buttons and exploit suburban fears -- the purpose being, of course, to capture voters' attention. "Property owners warning!" screamed one press release dated several months ago. It went on to talk about "protecting our borders against an invasion of violent crime from Baltimore and Prince George's County" and promised Mr. Gary would "DO WHATEVER IS NECESSARY TO SECURE OUR BORDERS AND PROTECT OUR CITIZENS." (His capitals.) Since concerns over light rail crime erupted last month, Mr. Gary has renewed his call for isolationism. Other GOP candidates -- County Councilman Edward Middlebrooks and Sheriff Robert Pepersack -- have been singing the same narrow-minded tune.

This is not to say crime related to light rail and other out-of-county sources do not require attention (though whether the majority of county crime is coming from outside has yet to be established). But that is not the issue here. Mr. Gary has specific ideas for making the county safer, but he has not been talking about those. What we hear is purely an appeal to emotion. It's a tactic designed to establish popularity quickly while disregarding the candidate's responsibility to attack the issues in a reasonable way.

There's nothing reasonable about fostering the notion that Anne Arundel can be managed as if it were a separate country. Much as many people do not want to face it, the suburban counties, Anne Arundel among them, are part of a huge metropolitan area. Baltimore and Washington, D.C., are not enemies; they are this region's hubs. Our problems are best solved by working with them to solve theirs. Responsible politicians would be exhorting voters to help them do this.

Instead, some of our candidates seem determined to encourage deeper divisions. It's the wrong strategy for candidates to be using -- especially experienced politicians such as Mr. Gary, who ought to know better.

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