Hayden says foe won with 'gutter' campaign ELECTION 1994

November 10, 1994|By Pat Gilbert | Pat Gilbert,Sun Staff Writer

As an embittered Baltimore County Executive Roger B. Hayden contemplated his defeat yesterday, he blamed everyone but himself.

He blamed what he called a deceitful, "gutter" campaign by his victorious Democratic opponent, Charles A. Dutch Ruppersberger III. He blamed a gullible electorate. He blamed what he said was a negligent and biased press corps.

He said he ran an aggressive campaign based on four years of hard work and tough choices made without thought to his own political survival, but he admitted that he has no idea why the voters did not hear his message.

"During the past four years we have kept our promise about reducing the size of government and making Baltimore County a better place to live," Mr. Hayden said. "This promise had a price, and I accepted that price, and it definitely cost me the election."

Mr. Ruppersberger, a 48-year-old county councilman and former prosecutor, said it was sad that Mr. Hayden would accuse him of having run a gutter campaign.

"I ran on the issues and my support was spread throughout the whole county," Mr. Ruppersberger said.

In the end, a variety of factors -- including Mr. Ruppersberger's well-organized campaign and miscalculations by the Republican incumbent -- brought about the Democrat's convincing 54-to-46 percent victory.

Mr. Ruppersberger put together a vast, countywide organization two years ago that functioned smoothly through the September primary and Tuesday's general election.

Mr. Hayden's campaign organization, which had counted on help and support from his mentor, Rep. Helen D. Bentley, sputtered ** after the primary when Mrs. Bentley lost her bid for the gubernatorial nomination to another Baltimore County Republican, Ellen R. Sauerbrey.

Mrs. Sauerbrey carried the county by a 57-to-43 percent margin, but Mr. Hayden was unable to ride her coattails.

Mr. Hayden also touted himself as the Eastside candidate.

But, in contrast to 1990, when he trounced the then-incumbent Dennis F. Rasmussen of Essex in the Eastside's critical precincts, Mr. Hayden lost convincingly out there on Tuesday.

In the only areas where Mr. Hayden consistently won -- in the rural, conservative North County -- he did so by narrow margins. Mr. Ruppersberger won big in the northwestern precincts and respectably almost everywhere else.

Robert J. Ramadka Sr., a former county Democratic Party chairman and Eastside political chieftain, said Mr. Hayden's support in eastern Baltimore County was soft to begin with in 1990.

"It was more an anti-Rasmussen vote than a pro-Hayden vote," said Mr. Ramadka. "The fact that other Republicans did well on the Eastside and Roger didn't tells you something."

By some accounts, Mr. Hayden's penchant for portraying himself as a nonpolitician was his undoing. He may have carried out too well his 1990 campaign promise to reduce the size of county government, restrict spending and keep a lid on taxes.

When he cut spending to deal with an unprecedented, recession-based drop in county revenues and state aid, Dundalk was hard hit by the aftermath. Libraries and senior citizen programs were closed. Retiring Councilman Donald C. Mason, who represents Dundalk and ran a Democrats for Hayden committee, said it hurt the executive.

"When you make tough decisions like that, you take a political hit," the councilman said. "But the council went along with those cuts and closings. So Roger took a hit that should have been shared by each council member -- including Mr. Ruppersberger."

Councilman Douglas B. Riley, a Towson Republican, agreed that Mr. Hayden was punished for his decisions. "Roger did exactly what the voters elected him to do," said Mr. Riley. "When they saw the other side of that -- libraries closed, their streets not as quickly cleared of snow -- they had second thoughts about just how far they are willing to take reduction in government and less spending."

The executive's efforts to reduce the size and expense of government resulted in wage freezes, furloughs and hundreds of layoffs. That cost him the support he had enjoyed from county unions in 1990.

In the end, while Mr. Ruppersberger did all the things a politician does to win -- including building up a huge base of volunteers and conducting extensive door-to-door campaigning -- Mr. Hayden stuck with the nonpolitician's persona that worked so well in 1990.

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