Tough commission contest expected

September 18, 1994|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Sun Staff Writer

The outcome of Tuesday's primary race for three Carroll County commissioner seats defied conventional wisdom and ensured that all six candidates -- especially the two incumbents -- will run vigorous campaigns in the seven weeks before the general election.

One surprise came when Republican Richard T. Yates, a two-time loser in races for a commissioner seat, was the top vote-getter in his primary.

The margins were thinner on the Democratic ticket, but the top vote-getter also was a surprise. Party leaders expected incumbent Elmer C. Lippy to place first, but Westminster City Councilwoman Rebecca A. Orenstein edged him by 75 votes.

Registered Republicans outnumber Democrats in Carroll by about 3,200 voters, and a larger percentage of Republicans voted in the primary -- 44 percent compared with 40 percent of registered Democratics.

The top three vote-getters from each party advanced to the Nov. 8 general election.

In the Republican race, Mr. Yates received almost 1,000 more votes than incumbent Donald I. Dell and about 1,100 more than the third-place finisher, Westminster Mayor W. Benjamin Brown.

Mr. Dell of Westminster got about 150 more votes than Mr. Brown.

Mr. Yates received 7,147 votes, Mr. Dell 6,191 and Mr. Brown 6,038.

Carroll County Republican Central Committee Chairman Thomas W. Bowen said, "There was no heavy favorite at the time [of Tuesday's primary], but it certainly turned out different. That was a surprise."

Mr. Yates won six of the county's 14 election districts, including all of South Carroll except Mount Airy. He also won in the Hampstead, Finksburg and Uniontown districts.

Mr. Dell won in the Mount Airy, Manchester, Union Bridge and Middleburg districts.

Mr. Brown won in Westminster, which is the district with the most registered voters in the county.

Republican Charles L. Stull of Deep Run won the Taneytown and Silver Run-Union Mills districts. Republican David T. Duree won in his home district of New Windsor.

Mr. Dell said he had hoped to be the top vote-getter, but wasn't surprised that Mr. Yates did well because he spent months walking door-to-door in all parts of the county to talk to voters.

"That man worked hard," Mr. Dell said.

Four years ago, Mr. Yates placed third in the Republican primary, behind Mr. Dell and Julia W. Gouge, who was seeking a second term. In the general election, Mr. Yates placed fourth. In 1986, Mr. Yates ran as a Democrat and lost in the primary.

Mr. Lippy predicted that Mr. Yates would win a commissioner seat in November, based on his showing in the primary. Mr. Lippy also predicted that he and Mr. Dell would win second terms.

Ms. Orenstein didn't agree that top vote-getters in the primary automatically do well in the general election.

"The primary is one leg of the race. We're now on another leg. We're all at the starting line again," she said.

Mr. Lippy acknowledged that he had expected to be the top vote-getter in the Democratic primary. But he said, "I don't feel dejected one bit. After all, it was pretty darn close."

Carroll County Democratic Central Committee Chairman L. Gregory Pecoraro also said he had expected Mr. Lippy to place first because his name is recognized widely and he has been a popular commissioner.

Mr. Pecoraro said South Carroll voters were duped by Mr. Yates and supported him because they think that county government neglects them and they want a commissioner who will fight for their interests.

"South Carroll residents voted for him because they misunderstood who he is," Mr. Pecoraro said. "He'll just cut everything."

Mr. Yates said he has talked to voters from all parts of the county and would represent them all. He said he would stop growth until adequate services and facilities were in place.

In the Democratic race, Ms. Orenstein received almost 1,300 more votes than the third-place finisher, Grover N. "Sam" Sensabaugh of Westminster. Mr. Lippy received almost 1,200 more votes than Mr. Sensabaugh.

Ms. Orenstein received 5,839 votes, Mr. Lippy 5,764 votes and Mr. Sensabaugh 4,565.

Ms. Orenstein won eight districts, including those that encompass Westminster, Eldersburg, Sykesville, Taylorsville, Finksburg, Uniontown, Union Bridge and the Silver Run-Union Mills area.

Mr. Lippy won six districts, including Manchester, Hampstead, Taneytown, Mount Airy, New Windsor and Middleburg.

Mr. Lippy said he doesn't expect Ms. Orenstein to win the general election because she received "all the votes she's going to get" in the primary. He said she focused on getting women to vote for her, but that strategy won't win her a seat.

"There's just so many females around. God love them, and I love them all," he said.

Ms. Orenstein said she sought the women's vote, but did not focus on it exclusively. In the general, she said, she and the other candidates will need a broad range of support to win.

"Any winner is going to have to draw from any part of the county and any party," she said.

Ms. Orenstein said she has the ability to transcend boundaries with voters.

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