Sour Grapes and Turnovers

November 10, 1994

The defining moment of Roger Hayden's bid for another term as Baltimore County executive came late Tuesday night, on live television. Though the executive's race wasn't officially over, it was evident at that hour that Democrat C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger would unseat the Republican incumbent. Mr. Hayden took to the podium at his headquarters and, claiming it was too early to concede, began ripping his opponent for traveling "the low road" and basically being a fraud. This, after a relatively clean, issue-oriented campaign.

Maybe Mr. Hayden's anger can be attributed to the rawness of a tough loss. But his tirade happened to underscore the lack of personal appeal that left many people unenthusiastic about him as their leader. Indeed, in an election year dominated by conservatives and Republicans preaching fiscal sanity, Mr. Hayden should have been the clear front-runner. He had a record to match the public mood but possessed little of the charisma that might have made voters want to elect him again. If anyone needed a reminder of this shortcoming, it came in Mr. Hayden's display of sour grapes.

Mr. Ruppersberger will go to work with a County Council that is mostly Democratic and has only two returning members. Yet even with so much turnover, the new panel -- including former delegates Joseph Bartenfelder and Louis L. DePazzo and county Democratic Party officials Kevin Kamenetz and Stephen G. Moxley -- will boast broader political experience than the neophytes elected in 1990. Look for second-term Republican Douglas B. Riley to assume a greater leadership role. He has said this will be his last go-round on the council, which means he'll probably make a run for a higher office in 1998, perhaps the county executive's seat.

Baltimore County's General Assembly delegation will likewise undergo heavy turnover. Of the county's next group of House of Delegates members, two-thirds will be newcomers. Among them are the first African-Americans elected to a non-federal office from the county. The delegation lost clout with the defeat Tuesday of Del. Kenneth H. Masters, the House majority leader, and (barring a switch caused by absentee ballots) E. Farrell Maddox, the head of the county's House contingent. These setbacks quickly followed the primary-election losses and resignations of more than a dozen county incumbents. Delegation veterans, especially in the state Senate, will be more obligated than ever to look after the county's interests during the coming term in Annapolis.

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