Primary Reasons to Vote

September 07, 1994

Baltimore County voters did not go gently to the polls four years ago. They were an angry bunch in 1990 -- mad about taxes they felt were too high, development they considered out of control and incumbent politicians they viewed as arrogant. Many rascals were thrown out.

This summer, with the Sept. 13 primary less than a week away, the county electorate is a lot more mellow. Perhaps too mellow, if the paltry turnouts at 1994 candidate forums are any indication. The irony, though, is that next Tuesday's elections are as worthy of Baltimore County voters' interest and involvement as any in recent memory.

A whopping 350-plus county candidates have filed for local, state and federal offices, from Congress to central committee. New legislative boundaries have created competitive contests, such as the one between state senators Paula Hollinger and Janice Piccinini of the new 11th district. Close Senate battles also have been pitched in the 8th, 10th and 12th districts (the new 10th being the county's first black-majority district.) Up to four viable contenders want Helen Bentley's old congressional seat. Meanwhile, the ascendant Republican Party has registered more voters and fielded more candidates in the county than ever before.

Yet, with so much happening on the local political scene, election officials predict a turnout of no better than 30 percent for the primary. Many voters wave off the county races as being less important than national or statewide elections. The fact is that local elected representatives -- the county executive, your county councilperson, state senator and delegate -- have a greater impact on your everyday life than do the president or your congressperson. They decide whether a school gets built in your community or whether your library branch's hours have to be cut back. They decide if the cow pasture next door can be rezoned for a factory. They are responsible for patching potholes and making sure police protection is sufficient to let you feel secure in your own back yard.

Primary elections always get short shrift from voters, even in presidential years. But citizens can't complain about the quality of their representation if they aren't willing to invest the time and energy to make sure the best candidates succeed. The primary is a crucial part of that process.

And if voters can't work up any enthusiasm for local races as interesting as those in Baltimore County this year -- well, that is something else to get angry about.

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