Gained nothing when C. Vernon Gray lost his...

HOWARD COUNTY

July 22, 1996

HOWARD COUNTY gained nothing when C. Vernon Gray lost his bid last week to become second vice president of the National Association of Counties. As much as some of Mr. Gray's opponents might try to minimize the importance of the position, a win for the Columbia councilman would have brought some attention to the county and to Maryland. A victory would have put him in line to become NACO president in 1999.

But Mr. Gray, unlike others who run for top positions of national organizations, got little support from the home team. Many communities relish the bit of prestige and recognition that comes from having a representative on the national stage. But, apparently, not Howard.

Instead of gaining the endorsement of his County Council colleagues, Mr. Gray's effort against a councilman from Delaware was scuttled by backstabbing and questionable practices by the council's partisan administrator.

It is no secret that Mr. Gray and the three Republicans on the council are considering running for county executive in 1998. The Republicans did not want Mr. Gray to have the advantage of holding a national office.

Contrast their behavior with the classy position taken by County Executive Charles I. Ecker. The Republican lent Mr. Gray vocal support as he left last week for the NACO convention in Houston. There are times for personal and partisan battles. And Mr. Ecker knew this was not one of them.

Ironically, the council Republicans thinking about the executive's race in two years might have gained politically had things gone well for their rival.

Had Mr. Gray won, he might have been convinced not to vie for the county executive's seat for fear of forfeiting his NACO post. The organization's second vice president must remain in elective office to ascend to the presidency of the trade group. It would have been easier for Mr. Gray to retain his council seat than to win as county executive.

Mr. Gray made missteps of his own. His fund-raising was questionable, a problem that won't easily melt away. He may yet taste victory if he runs again next year when NACO holds its convention in Baltimore. But for now, Howard County is a loser because pettiness and jealousy reign in the council chamber.

Pub Date: 7/22/96

Gray's loss was county's loss; Council Republicans couldn't see past their narrow jealousies.

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