For Hantman, Ecker Howard County Executive

August 23, 1994

When weighing the two choices for the Democratic nominee for Howard County executive, consider the position that candidate Susan Gray took on the now-delayed $200 million Coca-Cola bottling plant proposed for Howard County.

Ms. Gray, a self-described "slow growth" advocate, says upon learning of the negotiations for the project that she would have immediately gone to the surrounding Dorsey community to inform citizens of the proposal, though that would have revealed Coke's plans prematurely and might have discouraged it from locating in the county.

So much for economic development in Howard County under a Gray administration. Such logic is at the core of Susan Gray's campaign, which is focused on stopping growth in the county.

Although Ms. Gray bristles at the label "no-growth," her every campaign statement betrays a not-in-my-backyard attitude, flawed by a myopic approach to transportation, taxation and the nature of progress. Moreover, Ms. Gray's views on the current power structure in Howard County may best be described as the rantings of a conspiracy theorist. She believes the county is corrupted by a handful of development firms which have hog-tied the entire lot of county elected officials through campaign contributions. Her rhetoric suggests illegality where no credible evidence exists.

Democrats have a far better choice in the Sept. 13 primary: Sue-Ellen Hantman, a former assistant state's attorney and county planning board member, is well-versed on a variety of issues. She offers a considerate approach to governance that is open to reasonable change and expansion in one of Maryland's most prosperous counties.

Ms. Hantman says the administration of incumbent County Executive Charles I. Ecker has not been aggressive enough in tackling a lack of public transportation, solid waste management and affordable housing. Should she win the primary, Ms. Hantman would find it tough going against the popular Mr. Ecker, the lone Republican candidate.

Mr. Ecker, a former deputy school superintendent in the county, has mined an enormous vein of goodwill during his four years in office. Despite a rocky first year that saw him lay off county employees and raise taxes as an early -- and necessary -- response to the recession, Mr. Ecker has since charted a course of modest growth. As for style points, it's a draw: Ms. Hantman is intelligent and likable, but Mr. Ecker's good-natured straightforwardness, even while dealing with contentious matters, has won him much respect inside and outside Howard County.

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