Howard's Conservative Tide

November 10, 1994

Howard County, like much of the nation, was swept up in the conservative tide on Election Day. From the General Assembly to the county executive race to the County Council, voters steered for a more moderate, more traditional course.

Republicans were the main beneficiaries, but it was more than that. Discerning voters appeared to easily cross party lines to single out candidates they preferred. They also bucked the expected tendency to throw out the incumbents, and chose experience over those who promised sharp change.

County Executive Charles I. Ecker was the big winner, defeating Democrat Susan B. Gray by a 2-1 margin. The popular Republican executive ran a cautious campaign, stressing his success in handling the fiscal crisis that buffeted the county when he entered office four years ago.

Ms. Gray made rapid growth a big issue in the campaign, but after entering the race only minutes before the filing deadline, she could never overcome the image of someone ill-equipped to run county government. Her one-issue, vitriolic approach to campaigning was never enough to overcome the common-sense prudence that Mr. Ecker espouses. And, the radical change Ms. Gray promised seemed too sweeping for the community. Voters did approve Ms. Gray's controversial zoning referendum, which gives residents the right to petition to overturn certain zoning decisions. But the approval of the referendum alongside the defeat of its author, Ms. Gray, wasn't necessarily the contradiction it might seem to be. Voters wanted a Republican executive and stricter land-use policies to boot.

Republicans also took control of the County Council for the first time. The GOP lost some ground within the county's House delegation, going from having a majority to a 4-4 split with Democrats. But that was a respectable showing given that redistricting was supposed to have tilted seats toward the Democrats. Republicans picked up a seat in the state Senate delegation, capturing two of three posts. And Republican Marna McLendon was elected state's attorney, ending the Democrats' long hold on that office. Even in a non-partisan school board election, candidate Stephen Bounds was able to win a seat by overcoming fears about his conservative religious views. Conservatism, in various flavors, was the order of the day in Howard.

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