How Deep Runs Dissatisfaction?

September 12, 1994

When Carroll County voters go to the polls tomorrow, they will determine whether incumbents are able to hold on to their jobs. Officeholders are presumed to have an advantage over challengers, but in today's political climate of widespread dissatisfaction for government, being in power may be a liability, as it was for many local representatives four years ago.

Judging from questions at political forums this season, county voters are not happy with the status quo. The pace of residential development is creating crowded schools, congested roads and blighted landscape. Many citizens feel that the current commissioners have not done enough to control growth.

Incumbent commissioners Donald I. Dell, a Republican, and Elmer C. Lippy, a Democrat, are facing strong challenges in their respective primaries. Some of their opponents have made controlling growth the centerpiece of their campaigns. Given that the commissioners' record of the past four years has been to give the green light to development, several challengers have capitalized on this issue and questioned the current commitment to long-range planning.

In another hotly contested county race, State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman is once more facing a strong challenge from Jerry F. Barnes, who works as an assistant prosecutor in Frederick and who barely lost four years ago when he ran as a Democrat. Unlike the mudslinging battle of '90, the two candidates are running on their records. Both candidates are stating they are tough on crime. With the Court of Special Appeals acquitting confessed murder James Van Metre III due to a gross prosecutorial mistake, however, Mr. Hickman's claims ring hollow. The voters have the opportunity to decide whether just talking tough about crime is sufficient for Mr. Hickman to return for another term.

Voters have also indicated in public forums that they would like a more open government. Candidates promoting more evening meetings and televised commissioner and planning sessions received enthusiastic responses.

Carroll voters seem to be interested in changing the way the public's business is handled. Their action in this election will speak volumes about how serious they are about making sure that public policy-making isn't "business as usual."

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