Leadership was a key issue in hard-fought contest Ruppersberger wins in Baltimore Co. He captures 54% of the vote for executive, but incumbent Hayden won't concede ELECTION 1994

November 09, 1994|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Sun Staff Writer Sun staff writers Elaine Tassy, Pat Gilbert, Ed Brandt and Mary Maushard contributed to this article.

Democrat Charles A. Dutch Ruppersberger III won a convincing victory for Baltimore County executive yesterday, but an angry incumbent Roger B. Hayden stubbornly refused to concede early today.

Shortly after midnight, with Mr. Ruppersberger holding 54 percent of the vote, Mr. Hayden answered his home telephone but had no comment. "Good night," he said, before hanging up. With all the precincts counted, Mr. Ruppersberger won by almost 18,000 votes.

An hour earlier, after watching the incumbent Republican attack him before television cameras, Mr. Ruppersberger claimed his victory.

"I want to declare victory tonight," he told wildly cheering supporters at an Overlea catering hall. "We're going to restructure this government the positive way," he said, with "proper treatment of employees, people and communities."

Mr. Hayden, speaking to a somber crowd of supporters at a Tall Cedars hall in Parkville just before Mr. Ruppersberger's statement, lashed out.

He accused Mr. Ruppersberger of taking "the low road," and said "the shame of it all is that people will believe what they want to believe -- that anyone who gets in is a politician. I have never been one. I will never be one."

Mr. Hayden, the first Republican elected county executive since Spiro T. Agnew in 1962, won his job in a surprisingly easy upset in 1990, riding the kind of voter anger that fueled Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey's bid for governor this year.

But four years of economic and personal turmoil made his re-election bid an uphill struggle.

Critics said Mr. Hayden, beset by the recession, changed too much with his layoffs and closings -- demonstrating a lack of leadership. Supporters said he got the county through its roughest economic trial since charter government began in 1957 while fulfilling a pledge to change government's direction.

Earlier, at polling places, voters explained their choices.

Charles and Eileen Tyler, voting at Woodmoor, just inside the Beltway, said they chose Mr. Hayden for a reason typical of his supporters. "He's done a good job," Mr. Tyler said. "He's done what we had asked him to do last time."

Several voters who favored the challenger said they disliked Mr. Hayden's budget cuts, his treatment of county workers and his lack of leadership in the school board controversies.

Ed Fritsche, voting at the Towson Library, said he thought Mr. Hayden "ran the county too much like a business." Too many layoffs and cutbacks, he said.

Betty McFall, who voted at Cockeysville Middle School, said she voted a straight Republican ticket except for Mr. Hayden. "I don't like Mr. Hayden's record on abuse against women," she said, referring to accusations of sexual harassment made by the executive's former secretary and charges of abusive behavior made by his former wife, Nancy.

Mr. Ruppersberger's backers felt his winning margin would come through large majorities from precincts in Pikesville, the Liberty Road corridor and Owings Mills.

The northwestern quadrant was the only area to favor Executive Dennis F. Rasmussen in 1990, when Mr. Hayden swept the rest of the county -- often with 3-1 and 4-1 majorities.

Mr. Ruppersberger, 48, also expected to do well elsewhere, perhaps winning in Perry Hall and Essex, and because of his close ties to Republicans registering significant totals in the central county and his conservative north county home area, which he represented in the County Council.

Mr. Ruppersberger was one of two of the seven council incumbents to survive the voters' wrath in 1990.

An ability to get votes from conservatives and a well-organized and well-funded campaign gave Mr. Ruppersberger the momentum he needed to win last night.

Mr. Hayden, 49, began stressing his Eastside roots near the end of the campaign, even using his 1962 Sparrows Point High School yearbook picture in a full page ad in Eastside newspapers.

The former county school board president said he achieved what no one could have thought possible in his first term -- a leaner, but still healthy county government after three years of recession and $90 million in lost revenues.

And, he argued, he still kept his promises to give ordinary county residents access to their executive and brought about reformed zoning and development procedures to attract new business to the county.

Regardless of his loss, Mr. Hayden's stunning 1990 success plus the election of three Republican County Council members and two new Republican legislators changed county politics for years to come.

In a county where the Democratic primary traditionally was the decisive local election, his ability to get Democrats, who outnumber Republicans in Baltimore County by 2.5-1, to vote for him rejuvenated the Republican Party and put county Democratic officials on notice.

It provided the minority party with a cadre of young candidates and encouraged more people to register as Republicans. Republican registration in the county has grown by 11.6 percent since 1990, while Democrats barely increased.

Mr. Ruppersberger used that trend toward blurred political party loyalty by announcing a "Republicans for Ruppersberger" group and touting friendly relations with Mrs. Sauerbrey and GOP congressional candidate Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

Aided as well by the anger and fear that Mr. Hayden's layoffs and cutbacks created in a 19,000-member county work force, Mr. Ruppersberger won endorsements from all the county worker unions. Combined with a campaign fund of more than $600,000 and help from most elected Democratic officials, Mr. Ruppersberger gathered momentum all summer, climaxing Sept. 13 in a surprisingly easy victory over three Democratic challengers.

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