Hayden confident of victory CAMPAIGN 1994

September 09, 1994|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Sun Staff Writer

Like a political Energizer Bunny, Baltimore County Executive Roger B. Hayden has absorbed blow after blow -- a few self-inflicted -- yet he keeps on going, and going, and going.

Only months after he took office in 1991, the luck that transformed the former steel company executive from a Johnny-come-lately political novice to the first Republican Baltimore County executive since Spiro T. Agnew seemed to desert him.

A series of personal and political crises, as well as a recession that battered the county treasury, often kept him preoccupied as he tried to establish himself as a professional manager trying to streamline county government.

Now, after 3 1/2 years in office, he still touts himself as a common man and an outsider -- a nonpolitician who is not about to abandon his version of "the new politics."

But the list of political damage reads like a what-to-avoid primer for officials elected in the 1990s:

* A nasty separation and divorce, including allegations of abuse and adultery, that spurred an even nastier whispering campaign about his personal life.

* Uproar after uproar in the county's previously stable school system. Although he was a former school board president and 12-year board member, Mr. Hayden appeared powerless to affect the biggest educational controversies the county has known in 20 years.

* The worst economic recession in county history, which cost the treasury $90 million and forced him to increase the income tax rate, even though he ran on an anti-tax platform in 1990.

* Controversial budget cuts. In response to the recession and state aid reductions, he cut the pay of county workers, withheld raises for three years, laid off hundreds of employees, allowed police manpower to shrink as public preoccupation with crime increased and closed popular county libraries, senior centers and health centers.

* Accusations of sexual harassment by his former executive secretary. The charges were ultimately dismissed by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

* The worst winter in local memory, and the exhaustion of road salt supplies. Substitution of black cinders prolonged the public memory of the winter of discontent by staying in annoying sight on county streets through summer, when sweepers finally removed most of them.

* Brain surgery that kept him out of work from May 8 until late July, as well-financed Democratic challengers lined up to try to win his job.

PD In other places in other years, even one of these problems might

have been enough to cause a candidate's involuntary retirement on Election Day.

But, faced with two weak Republican challengers in Tuesday's primary and Democratic opponents who are expending considerable energy on one another, the 49-year-old Mr. Hayden is upbeat, fighting back and confident of a second term.

The executive has launched a series of pre-primary television and newspaper ads and formed a ticket with Republican gubernatorial candidate Helen Delich Bentley. He also has resumed visiting community groups several nights a week and said he will have campaign workers at every precinct polling place.

Donald Brewer of Eastpoint, a county worker Mr. Hayden laid off in February 1993, and George Egbert of Aero Acres, an elderly retired county police officer, are his opponents in the primary.

Mr. Brewer, 47, is the former county ride-share coordinator. His second, unofficial career, both under former executive Dennis F. Rasmussen and Mr. Hayden, has been government gadfly. He said he is a "malcontent" in the best sense of the word. He supported Mr. Hayden in 1990, complaining about cronyism and waste in the Democratic Rasmussen administration.

But after Mr. Hayden took office, he aimed his complaints at the new executive. In the campaign, he has added new ones about alleged irregularities in county spending and on Mr. Hayden's campaign finance report. He said he can't interest anyone, including the state prosecutor, in his charges.

Now, he complains he is ignored by the media, the Republican Party and Mr. Hayden, who has skipped all the candidate forums in the primary. Despite his good intentions, he said, county officials treat him like a malcontent in the worst sense -- a pest.

Still, Mr. Brewer keeps campaigning. "I honestly feel pretty confident," he said.

Mr. Egbert, who has spent years criticizing former county Police Chief Cornelius Behan, has remained unavailable for comment despite repeated attempts to reach him.

So far, Mr. Hayden has ignored both, already concentrating on the November general election.

The best-organized Democrats vying for a chance to face him then are County Councilmen Charles A. Dutch Ruppersberger III and Melvin G. Mintz, and John C. Coolahan, a former state senator and a retired District Court judge. Kevin Pearl, a follower of Lyndon LaRouche, also is running.

The Hayden campaign strategy is simple and straightforward, the common man approach.

"I'm the mail boy from Eastern Stainless Steel," the Sparrows Point High School graduate said.

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