Year of the Manager

November 09, 1994

The voters spoke clearly in the races for county executive around the Baltimore region: Candidates who were perceived as having a firmer grasp on managing government finances -- Republican John Gary in Anne Arundel County, Democrat Eileen Rehrmann in Harford County and Republican Charles Ecker in Howard County -- handily won their races.

In Baltimore County, conservative Democrat C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger declared victory over Republican incumbent Roger Hayden. While voters may have desired Mr. Hayden's slimmer government, his leadership was lacking.

Other issues may have dominated the campaign debate in the suburbs -- talk of new jails and police leadership and rampant suburban growth. But ultimately, the voters reaffirmed a fact that the political discourse didn't always give them credit for understanding: that the county executive's job is first and foremost a manager's job. Warm and cuddly only goes so far.

Coherent messages are muddier in Carroll County's three-headed commissioner form of government, but there, too, residents appeared to select candidates who presented a more forceful, business-like air: Republicans Donald I. Dell, Richard T. Yates and W. Benjamin Brown.

As for the contested congressional races in Maryland, the outcomes answered the riddle: In a Republican district in a Republican year, who wins? The Republican, of course.

Robert Ehrlich in the Second District and Roscoe Bartlett in the Sixth District actually made it look quite easy. At the campaign's outset, Mr. Ehrlich was expected to have a tough race against fellow Ivy Leaguer, fellow attorney, fellow delegate Gerry Brewster. But Mr. Ehrlich may have run the most imaginative media campaign of any candidate, having great success with an MTV-like TV ad that portrayed him as the Arbutus boy who made good; he also parried Mr. Brewster's attack ads on the crime issue with humor.

As for Mr. Bartlett, his first term was in a nose dive after his upset win in 1992. But President Clinton saved him in a helicopter. More precisely, after Mr. Bartlett saw a newspaper photo that showed Clinton aides using military helicopters to ferry them to a Frederick golf course, he rightly made hay out of the issue. He trounced Democrat Paul Muldowney last night.

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