Redmond: Democrats' black sheep Councilman angers public-worker unions and much of Annapolis

July 05, 1996|By Scott Wilson | Scott Wilson,SUN STAFF

County Councilman Thomas W. Redmond Sr. has become Anne Arundel's black-sheep Democrat.

In the past two months, he has angered public-employee unions by siding with the county's Republican administration during impasse hearings.

Then he infuriated a Democratic-majority city, Annapolis, by stripping police and transportation grants from Anne Arundel's budget as retribution for a city lawsuit challenging the property tax rate.

Now the Pasadena Democrat, whose sharp words and political independence have earned him a reputation as the council's angry man, is about to help the local Republican Party out of a political jam.

"I have no idea why Tom would do this as a Democrat," said James E. DeGrange, a Glen Burnie Democrat.

On Monday, Redmond introduced a measure that would give voters a chance to change a decision they made in 1992 when they limited council members to two consecutive, four-year terms. That law, which affected members in office before 1994, led to a council reshuffling that ushered in a Republican majority.

If council members approve Redmond's resolution, the November ballot will include a measure that would give council members three consecutive terms in office.

Two council members, Republican Chairwoman Diane R. Evans and Democrat George F. Bachman, will not have to step down in 1998 if it is approved.

"The County Council is the closest form of government to the people," said Redmond, who defeated Republican incumbent Carl G. "Dutch" Holland for his seat in 1994. "If you have a good council member, then people should be allowed to vote for them again."

The resolution could have immediate partisan political implications.

The less-restrictive term limits law would allow Evans, a rising GOP star, to keep her powerful post beyond 1998 rather than have to challenge an incumbent state delegate or county executive to stay in the political limelight.

Speculation around the Arundel Center holds that Evans, an Arnold Republican, might challenge Republican County Executive John G. Gary.

Such a showdown in the 1998 GOP primary would pose a political nightmare for local Republicans -- a blood feud between two of the party's best.

But an extra term for Evans, who was elected in 1990, could head off such a contest. Rather than bide her time in private-sector anonymity, Evans could spend another four years on the dais and run for an open executive's seat in 2002.

"Once you're removed from it, it's more difficult to run for elective office," DeGrange said.

Evans would not say how the resolution will affect her closely held political plans.

But history indicates that she may need to step outside the council -- perhaps to the House of Delegates -- before aspiring to the top county job. No sitting council member has won a county executive election.

"I haven't made any decisions regarding what race I'll enter," she said.

"If this question passes -- and that's a big if -- then it will give me another option to consider."

In 1992, county voters faced a November ballot that included two conflicting term-limits measures.

One question, which would have allowed council members three terms, won 102,296 votes, 64 percent of the total. The measure was pushed by the County Council, which included two members now serving.

The Anne Arundel Taxpayers Association introduced a second, competing question prohibiting council members and the county executive from serving more than two terms. It won 120,774 votes, 77 percent of the total, and became part of the county charter. Redmond's resolution does not extend to the county executive's office.

"This doesn't come as a surprise," said Robert C. Schaeffer, president of the taxpayer group. "I don't think people will vote for it. If voters know that we have term limits and this will make them weaker, it won't pass."

The 1992 referendum forced three Democratic incumbents -- Virginia P. Clagett, David G. Boschert and Maureen Lamb -- to step down in 1994. Three Republicans took their places.

As for Redmond, local Democrats defend his position as a nod to democracy, not the opposition. "I don't see it as a partisan issue," said Candace H. Beckett, chairwoman of the Anne Arundel Democratic Central Committee. "Diane Evans is a good Republican. She wouldn't run against Gary anyway."

Pub Date: 7/05/96

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