Diane Evans' uphill climb Anne Arundel County: Council president well-liked, but poll doesn't tell all about Gary.

December 18, 1997

KNOCKING OFF JOHN G. GARY, the Anne Arundel County executive, in the Republican primary next September would be a remarkable coup for Diane R. Evans, chairwoman of the County Council. She should know that a Mason-Dixon poll can be fragile ground on which to build a campaign. Mr. Gary may have a number of weaknesses, but he may also turn out to be too formidable an incumbent for Ms. Evans.

Mr. Gary has a record of accomplishment. During a period of tight finances, he has maintained county services. He has increased spending in two key areas, police and education. His administration has enacted major pension reform that will reduce the county's future contributions by millions of dollars. His administration passed the General Development Plan that will divert development from agricultural and environmentally sensitive areas.

Elected in 1994, Mr. Gary is fixated on making county government run more efficiently. He has hounded the school board to streamline operations and reduce waste in construction. He has pushed to eliminate a two-tier pay system in which school nurses from the health department are paid less than their counterparts employed by the education department.

Even admirers admit, however, that he rules with a heavy hand. Compromise is fine with Mr. Gary -- so long as things get done his way. His weak spot may be his devotion to friends and department heads who have not always acted in his or the county's best interests.

To wrest the party's nomination from the incumbent, Ms. Evans must convince voters that she not only would be able to run the county as well, but in a less authoritarian manner. Ms. Evans' campaign would likely try to highlight Mr. Gary's hardheadedness, a negative in the polls.

Other harsh realities for Ms. Evans remain invisible to the polls. They include Mr. Gary's large campaign treasury and his support from the GOP establishment. As challenger, Ms. Evans would have to scramble to raise money and assemble a countywide campaign organization.

These are daunting handicaps that typically discourage all but the most determined campaigners. To become a strong contender for county executive, Ms. Evans will need all the determination she can muster.

Pub Date: 12/18/97

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.