Mood in suburbia Distrust evident: In land of soccer moms and angry white males, message remains mixed.

November 09, 1996

THE MOOD IN Maryland's suburbia -- the home of soccer moms and angry white males -- still seems fragile and distrustful, in spite of President Clinton's re-election Tuesday.

Indeed, Mr. Clinton ran more competitively in this state's broad and burgeoning belt of tract housing and strip malls than he did when he captured the presidency in 1992.

He also fared better than the results of the 1994 state election would have indicated when a fellow Democrat, Gov. Parris Glendening, lost all but the three most urban jurisdictions -- Baltimore City and Montgomery and Prince George's counties. Yet the president's romp provided no coattails -- four Maryland Republican incumbents had no trouble winning re-election to Congress.

Mr. Clinton needed the strong voter support of all those soccer moms to overcome suspicions of the president among men, especially white men. But distrust of government seemed to be an underlying theme in this election throughout suburbia, where ballot questions giving local governments more powers were repeatedly and soundly rejected.

In Prince George's County, voters refused to remove a tax cap in place since 1978, rejecting pleas that schools and police are already suffering. Then they approved a ban on all new taxes without voter approval. In Montgomery County, a tax-reduction referendum failed, but voters rejected an attempt to centralize firefighting powers under a single, professional chief.

In Howard County, the apparent unseating of that county's first black circuit court judge was at least partly rooted in suspicion over the politics of the appointment and in emotional appeals by challengers to crime fears. In Anne Arundel, voters said "no" to granting more latitude to county officials on competitive bidding. And Maryland voters overwhelmingly rejected giving Harford County officials "quick take" land-acquisition authority.

The young families who have been populating the counties around Baltimore and Washington the last few decades are changing the dynamics of Maryland elections. They tend to be highly skeptical about government and elected officials. Any politician who anticipates a more trusting reception in suburbia is in for a rude awakening.

Pub Date: 11/09/96

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