After Ecker Drown catapults friend Flanagan into '98 race for next executive.

February 03, 1997

THE SNAPSHOT of the next executive's race in Howard County got a smidgen clearer recently when Republican County Councilman Darrel Drown announced that he would put family ahead of political ambitions, for a while, and take himself out of the field.

Mr. Drown would be a formidable candidate for the county's top government job, but he apparently worked out a deal to step aside.

He will seek Del. Robert L. Flanagan's 14th District state legislative seat, clearing the way for the acerbic and partisan Harvard-trained lawyer to run for county executive. Mr. Flanagan has said he would run for lameduck Charles I. Ecker's job only if he could do it without competing against his friend, Mr. Drown.

Despite the tag-team tactics of Messrs. Drown and Flanagan, the Republican field remains a free-for-all. As Sen. Martin Madden quipped at a recent GOP gathering: "Darrel and I are the only two officials in this room who definitely aren't running for county executive in '98."

Other potential contenders include County Council Chairman Dennis Schrader, who is cultivating an image as a moderate consensus-builder; long-time Councilman Charles Feaga, who believes he has paid his dues in 16 years as a county lawmaker; Clerk of Courts Margaret Rappaport, a shrewd politician and gifted campaigner, and her husband, attorney Paul Rappaport, a former county police chief and GOP nominee for lieutenant governor in 1994.

Most are partisan Republicans, unlike Mr. Ecker, a Democrat-turned-Republican and former educator who has garnered Democratic support in both his campaigns. Mr. Ecker is prohibited by law from running for a third term as executive and is mulling a bid for governor.

Councilman C. Vernon Gray appears to be the leading Democrat, but former state Sen. Thomas Yeager, former Councilman Paul Farragut and school Superintendent Michael Hickey also could contend.

The GOP wannabees have watched their fortunes rise, along with their party's, from doormats to kings of the lair in increasingly conservative Howard. As their confidence swells, they may not feel compelled to nominate another centrist candidate to follow in Mr. Ecker's footsteps.

Pub Date: 2/03/97

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