Four Against One: A Fair Fight in 31st

COMMENT

September 25, 1994|By ELISE ARMACOST

It's teamwork vs. the Lone Wolf in District 31.

Stokes and Ray, Joan and Phil vs. John Leopold.

The friendliest foursome in Anne Arundel County fighting a politician who spent primary election night at home. The "United 31st" against a campaigning phenomenon of one.

The United 31st unitedly predict that, together, they once more can vanquish this foe. "We expect to beat him," Del. Joan Cadden said. "We beat him in '90, four of us working as a team. I don't see why we can't do it again."

But that was then, this is now. That was John Leopold vs. Phil Jimeno for state Senate. That was the Lone Wolf vs. every missile the Democratic Party could muster. That was a delegate with lots of money but no campaign organization to fight back against the senator with no money but lots of volunteers and well-financed friends.

This is John Leopold going after his old House of Delegates post in a district where he has never had a bit of trouble winning a one-out-of-three seats race. He is the only Republican to have won office in this Democratic stronghold. He has no volunteers. But he has perfected the art of streetside and door-to-door campaigning by practicing it, not just at election time, but all year every year.

He may not have hit it off with other local lawmakers during his eight years as a delegate. But he inspires unshakable devotion in some constituents.

If Stokes Kolodziejski and Ray Huff are quaking in their boots (they say they aren't), who can blame them? There's a better chance than the United 31st is willing to admit that one or both of these incumbents won't be going back.

One seat will go to Mrs. Cadden, who cleaned up in the primary two weeks ago. If the other goes to Mr. Leopold, that leaves one up for grabs among Stokes, Ray and Republicans Doug Arnold and Vicky Schade.

This kind of pressure could kill a ticket, not to mention friendships between political colleagues. It would be easy for Stokes and Ray to decide, "Enough of this teamwork stuff. Time to look out for No. 1."

Instead, the United 31st remains as united as ever. Phil and Joan, Stokes and Ray, they're singing in more perfect harmony than the Andrews Sisters. It's almost corny, the things they're saying.

"This has unified us more," Phil said. "We trust each other. We're loyal to each other."

"We're more united after the primary than we've ever been," Stokes said. "We've never had a fight I know of in four years. We work so well together, it's unbelievable."

"If we all help each other and show unity, we'll win," Ray said.

"We're a team," Joan said.

That they are. There are other successful tickets in the county. On the GOP side in District 31, for example, Arnold, (David) Blanch and Schade stuck together like glue during the primary campaign, with considerable success; Mr. Arnold and Ms. Schade beat more seasoned candidates on Sept. 13.

But it's safe to say that the United 31st is Anne Arundel's most cohesive political slate. They are like four men in a tub, four peas in a pod, Siamese quadruplets. They campaign together. They attend meetings together. A week ago, they rode in the Annapolis 300 parade, attended a Democratic Club crab feast and stumped in Brooklyn Park together.

Their campaign literature and paraphernalia are emblazoned with all four names; they seem to have signed a blood pact agreeing not to promote themselves individually -- or to work for other Democratic candidates.

Tom Redmond, a Democratic candidate for Anne Arundel County Council in the 3rd District, said some volunteers wearing United 31st shirts tried to hand out his literature and wear his campaign hats, "but they [the United 31st] wouldn't let them. They were really strict."

Certainly the ticket is tighter than four years ago, when it was composed of Phil, Ray and Stokes (Joan was included after the primary). Mr. Redmond recalls a bit of a flap when he put up campaign signs along his highly visible property on Route 100 for Phil, Stokes and House candidates Rose Church and Trevor Kiessling.

After Ray got upset at being left out, Phil asked that he be included, Mr. Redmond said. "I told them it was this or nobody's signs. Stokes and Phil [then embroiled in a vicious duel with Mr. Leopold] said, 'Well, we want our signs out there.' And Ray was out in the cold."

The pressure of a tough election like the one Mr. Jimeno faced then, like the one Ray and Stokes face now, can cause rifts in a ticket, Ferndale Sen. Mike Wagner said.

Members of the United 31st appeared to panic in 1986, the last time Mr. Leopold ran for the House of Delegates. Then, the ticket was made up of Stokes, Ray and James Riley, who has since become a Republican. Knowing that Mr. Leopold was going to knock off one of them, someone broke ranks. Mr. Riley says Stokes did it first -- promoting himself at the expense of his teammates. The others contend Mr. Riley was the one who betrayed the ticket.

So far, there are no signs of panic. They seem to realize their chances are better if they stick together than if they go off on their own.

"If we break off -- and a lot of people try to break us off -- what will happen is each of our [supporters] will get mad, and we'll lose more votes than we gain," Ray says.

Mr. Leopold, by the way, says he has no intention of joining a ticket with his Republican comrades.

Elise Armacost is The Baltimore Sun's editorial writer in Anne Arundel County.

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