The Gray Effect

September 15, 1994

Not long ago, the common wisdom was that Republican County Executive Charles I. Ecker would coast into a second term. The sailing might not be so smooth, however, now that Susan B. Gray has captured the Democratic nomination to run against Mr. Ecker in November. Ms. Gray's surprising win Tuesday has altered the political landscape in a county that, otherwise, held a predictable primary.

It is not just the Republicans who have their task cut out for them. Democratic Party regulars must now scramble to figure out how to run on a ticket headed by a woman whose views about curtailing future growth and development in the county are not shared by the rank and file.

Ms. Gray's closest equal at the top of the ticket, immensely powerful county councilman C. Vernon Gray (they are not related), is hardly an ally and is often the target of Ms. Gray's attacks on politicians who accept campaign contributions from developers. How Democrats like Mr. Gray, who also handily won renomination, will be able to work with Ms. Gray will be key to the campaign's outcome.

As expected, some incumbents succumbed to the growing tide of voter anger. Democratic Del. Virginia M. Thomas' assertive style won out over long-time incumbent Sen. Thomas M. Yeager for the District 13 Senate seat. In the contest for District 12, Columbia Democrat Edward J. Kasemeyer dealt a blow to 12-year incumbent Sen. Nancy L. Murphy of Baltimore County.

In the race for seats to the House of Delegates, Democrat M. Elizabeth Bobo, the former county executive, did what most insiders expected, beating out two challengers for her party's nomination.

The nomination of Dario J. Broccolino in the Democratic primary for Howard County state's attorney also signals voters' desire to see fundamental change in the county's top law enforcement office. The political newcomer beat out veteran prosecutor Michael A. Weal.

In the hottest County Council primary, Mary C. Lorsung capitalized on her strong community ties to win the Democratic nomination in District 4. Ms. Lorsung defeated party activist James B. Kraft, whose finance report revealed a fat contribution from a prominent local developer. In fact, growth and special interest politics may prove to be make-or-break issues in the coming campaign.

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