Carroll County commissioner candidates should limit their campaign spending in order to focus on issues instead of yard signs and advertisements, Democrat Cornelius M. "Neil" Ridgely said last week.
Mr. Ridgely of Finksburg has proposed that he and other candidates in the commissioner race spend no more than $10,000 in the primary and general elections.
But some of the other candidates said they are against any spending limits, and one said a policy should have been established before the race began.
"That [a spending limit] would hamper my campaign, and it's an intrusion on a form of free speech," said incumbent Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy, a Democrat.
In the 1990 elections, Mr. Lippy of Manchester, who is vice president of the commissioners, spent about $12,000. He said he probably will spend $10,000 to $12,000 this year "unless I suspect a swing of the tide and I get desperate."
"As much as I would object, Donald Dell would object more," Mr. Lippy said.
But incumbent Commissioner Donald I. Dell said, "I could live with it."
Mr. Dell of Westminster, a Republican, spent about $22,500 in the 1990 elections. He did not want to say how much he plans to spend, but said it probably would be less than four years ago.
Westminster Councilwoman Rebecca A. Orenstein, a Democratic candidate for commissioner, said that she supports campaign finance reform, but that a candidate trying to raise money should not be the one to propose spending limits. "That kind of reform needs to come from the electorate," she said.
Ms. Orenstein said last week she was not sure how much she would spend on the campaign. "People talk about realistically you have to have $10,000," she said.
Five Democrats and five Republicans are vying for three commissioner seats in the Sept. 13 primary. The top three vote-getters from each party will advance to the Nov. 8 general election.
The Board of Supervisors of Elections does not impose any spending limit on commissioner candidates.
Westminster Mayor W. Benjamin Brown, a Republican running for commissioner, opposes a limit. "Each person needs to be responsible for his own campaign," he said.
Mr. Brown said he has budgeted $9,600 for the primary and $3,000 to $4,000 for the general election.
Republican candidate David Duree of New Windsor said, "I certainly don't have any problem with the concept of campaign reform. But the ground rules have to be made before the campaign."
Mr. Ridgely, who has been a county employee for five years, said it's not too late to impose a spending limit because the race has not become contentious.
"No one's gotten bitter. If we're going to make an accord, now's the time to do it," he said. He said he would prefer a $5,000 maximum because it might mean candidates wouldn't have much to spend on signs, billboards and other "silly stuff."
People are really interested in the issues," he said about residents.
Democratic candidate David A. Grand of Westminster said he would support limits -- especially because he's spending his own money on the campaign.
Republican candidate Charles L. Stull of Deep Run said there should be a spending limit for any election. No one should be able to "buy" an elected office, he said. He said he probably will spend $8,500 to $9,000.
The other two candidates -- Democrat Grover N. "Sam" Sensabaugh of Westminster and Republican Richard T. Yates of Eldersburg -- could not be reached for comment Friday.