Ruppersberger, Hayden in close Baltimore Co. race ELECTION 1994

November 09, 1994|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Sun Staff Writer

Hopeful supporters of Baltimore County Councilman Charles A. Dutch Ruppersberger III anticipated a victory over incumbent Republican County Executive Roger B. Hayden last night.

Two hours after the polls closed, Mr. Ruppersberger's poll watchers gave him a growing lead over Mr. Hayden as results came pouring in. The official vote count lagged far behind, however, and Hayden forces still expressed confidence.

Mr. Hayden, the first Republican elected county executive since Spiro T. Agnew in 1962, won his job easily in 1990 on 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 ability. Supporters say he got the county through its roughest economic trial since charter government began in 1957, while fulfilling a pledge to change government's direction and give citizens more access to their leader.

Ninety minutes after the polls closed, expectant poll workers at Mr. Ruppersberger's Overlea Hall headquarters cheered to hear their own side's claims of a slowly widening margin.

At Mr. Hayden's headquarters at the Tall Cedars Hall in the 2500 block Putty Hill Ave., things were noticeably quieter. Still, county liquor board member Frank J. Wesolowski predicted Mr. Hayden would win with 60 percent of the vote.

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. Karen Shelton, another Towson voter and a former police officer, said she was angry at Mr. Hayden because of the police cuts. "He did us so wrong," she said."

The candidates each predicted victory, but with different scenarios.

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 provided him with the momentum Mr. Ruppersberger predicted would defeat Mr. Hayden.

Mr. Hayden, whose early defensiveness gave way to late expressions of confidence, did not predict any 3-1 margins yesterday.

He said his victory this time would come from inroads in the Democrat's northwestern county vote, while still getting a healthy vote in Dundalk and elsewhere.

"I think we'll do well all around the county, and maybe better in the northwest," Mr. Hayden said.

The executive, 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 to make his point.

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.

He said his next move would be a coordinated effort by all of county government to concentrate scarce dollars on older, neglected Beltway communities.

Win or lose this year, 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 to 1, to vote BTC 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. Republicans outregistered Democrats by a 2-1 margin.

Mr. Ruppersberger used that trend toward blurred political party loyalty by announcing a "Republicans for Ruppersberger" group and touting friendly relations with Republican gubernatorial candidate Ellen R. Sauerbrey and GOP congressional candidate Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. , both of whom also represented the north county.

Aided as well by the anger and fear that Mr. Hayden's layoffs and cutbacks created in a 19,000 member county work force and their families, Mr. Ruppersberger won endorsements from all the county worker unions.

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