Democratic Desert

November 10, 1994

Will the last Democrat to leave Carroll County turn out the light? The Republican tide that swept the nation roared through suburban-rural Carroll with incredible force. Republicans captured every elective office except one state delegate seat. Even Democrats who won statewide races had poor showings in Carroll. Only in tiny Garrett County did Republican Ellen Sauerbrey enjoy a larger margin of victory, winning 73 percent of the vote in Carroll.

Despite this overwhelming GOP trend, fights over the pace of development, the rate of taxation and the delivery of public services will continue to divide the county government and erode the cohesiveness of Carroll's delegation in Annapolis.

Richard Yates, Benjamin Brown and Donald Dell are all Republicans, but they have very different stances on key issues. Mr. Brown and Mr. Dell, for example, have wholly opposite views on controlling development, solid waste collection, impact fees and public works construction. They also own strong, unyielding personalities. As a result, Mr. Yates, a political unknown a few months ago, becomes one of the county's most powerful figures as the board of commissioners' swing vote.

Conversely, a man who had been one of the county's more prolific politicians is out of a job he struggled mightily to keep. For the first time in two decades, Thomas E. Hickman won't be Carroll's state's attorney. Jerry Barnes' decisive win gives him the opportunity to overhaul some aspects of the office's operations, particularly its role in the drug task force.

While half of Carroll's delegation to Annapolis -- Senator Larry Haines and Delegates Richard Dixon and Donald Elliott -- was returned to office, the remainder will be GOP freshmen in a General Assembly the Democrats continue to control. In order to effectively represent Carroll's local interests, the delegation's new members -- Timothy Ferguson in the Senate and Nancy Stocksdale and Joseph Getty in the House -- must quickly master the legislative process.

Carroll County voters articulated a clear message: They want their elected representatives to deal with the pressing problems of school overcrowding, lack of economic development, rapid residential growth and loss of open space. If the newly minted politicians don't, party affiliation won't matter four years from now.

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