New Leaders in D.C. Suburbs

September 09, 1994

This is a year of enormous change in the Washington suburbs. New executives will be elected in both populous Prince George's and Montgomery counties. The issues that matter are quite different in these big jurisdictions, and the candidates reflect these differences.

In majority-black Prince George's, there's a chance the two main black Democratic candidates -- lawyer Wayne K. Curry and educator Beatrice P. Tignor -- will split the black vote and allow longtime white councilwoman Sue V. Mills to win. That would be a mistake. Mrs. Mills is out of touch with the 1990s. She is a ## negative politician who tried to block school busing years ago. She likes to criticize but is rarely constructive. Her nomination would foster racial animosities.

Mr. Curry is the darling of the county's developers and fast-growth advocates. He is a former president of a powerful Chamber of Commerce and has a long resume in government and business. His downfall is his aggressive style of politicking, which can prove divisive. That's especially troubling in a county in need of a bridge-builder.

Such a candidate is state Senator Tignor. She has taught in the public schools and at the local community college. She has been a consensus-player in the legislature. There is no contest on the Republican side.

In neighboring Montgomery, voters have an enviable choice in the Democratic primary: Gus Bauman, the former head of the influential county planning board; Bruce T. Adams, the longtime county councilman, and Douglas M. Duncan, the assertive former mayor of Rockville. The battle is really between Mr. Adams, a zealot for process-driven politics, and Mr. Duncan, who makes no bones about his willingness to make executive decisions in a hurry.

Growth is the big issue -- and how to deal with its consequences. This wealthy county of 780,000 people -- the largest in Maryland -- could use a more dynamic leader at the helm. Instead of studying problems to death, the county needs someone who will step out front and get the job done. Mr. Duncan has achieved that in Rockville, where he cut property taxes and the city budget, implemented community policing and expanded services for minorities, seniors and the disabled.

Among Republicans, we favor Stephen N. Abrams, a county school board member, former Rockville councilman and a former agriculture official in the Bush administration. His long government service is a decided plus. His main opponent, Carol Trawick, has pledged to cut income taxes 10 percent -- but without explaining how it could be achieved without decimating services.

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