Be like Al Anne Arundel: Race to succeed Annapolis' Mayor Hopkins will turn on personality.

September 18, 1997

COME NOVEMBER, Annapolis voters will have to choose between two mayoral candidates -- Democrat Dennis M. Callahan and Republican Dean L. Johnson -- who agree on a number of important issues but approach governance from wholly different perspectives. Personality will in all likelihood determine the outcome of the general election, much as it did Tuesday's primary.

The positions of Messrs. Callahan and Johnson are virtually interchangeable on issuessuch as the Chesapeake Harbour annexation (against), a city conference center (against), new revenue authorities (against) and property tax rates (lower them). The difference lies in the methods they have used to govern.

Mr. Callahan, who served as mayor from 1985 to 1989, has a reputation for being brash, outspoken and confrontational. Voters apparently did not like his style when he ran for a second term in 1989 and traded it in for the folksy, inoffensive charm of Alfred A. Hopkins, who would probably have been re-elected had the law allowed a third term. In the primary, Mr. Callahan stressed that he had changed. If elected, he said, he would be much more accommodating and conciliatory than he was in his first term.

As an alderman the past eight years, Mr. Johnson has avoided confrontation. Deliberation and amiability are the hallmarks of his public service. He would carefully consider all the information available before staking out a position. Although most of his colleagues on the City Council respect him, Mr. Johnson was not viewed as a leader on that body.

Judging from the primary results, Annapolis voters are interested in mayors who are consensus builders. Even though Democrat Carl O. Snowden had built a considerable record of accomplishment in 12 years on the council, the public apparently still considers him a divisive civil rights activist. Republican M. Theresa DeGraff, also an effective alderman, was unable to overcome her reputation as a quarrelsome politician who was quick to attack opponents.

Don't be surprised if in the coming weeks, the mayoral candidates labor mightily to model themselves after Mr. Hopkins. Despite the incumbent's detacted approach to policy-making, Annapolitans seem charmed by his low-key ways. That reality has not been lost on either man seeking to succeed him.

Pub Date: 9/18/97

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