County Council hopeful surveys the voters Slack Katz to formally enter race tomorrow

May 15, 1998|By Gady A. Epstein | Gady A. Epstein,SUN STAFF

Debra Ann Slack Katz, candidate for County Council in western Howard, faces the imposing challenge of running as a Democrat in the only council district where Republicans outnumber Democrats.

Keenly sensitive to this, the first-time candidate hopes to win the confidence of voters by being equally sensitive to the will of the majority -- even if that means supporting positions she normally wouldn't.

"I will look for what a majority of my constituency wants. They're the people that elect me, and I need to carry out their wishes," said Slack Katz, a 43-year-old registered nurse and mother of two who will formally announce her candidacy tomorrow morning at Slacks Corner, north of West Friendship. "We're doing some random sampling now."

Leadership by polling is nothing new in American politics, but a candidate saying she would lead by polling may be a bit unusual. But Slack Katz is no ordinary candidate. She likes to say that she "thinks out of the box."

Take one of her ideas on how to help schools save money when they face budget cuts: "Maybe we do something like turning down the thermostats 4 degrees and have the kids wear sweaters."

Asked to elaborate on this position, she said, "It's not that difficult to have sweaters for the kids, and if we don't, maybe we do a drive about that. Maybe we do 'Sweaters for Scholars' or something like that."

Slack Katz also wonders aloud whether a shoe company could sponsor athletic events such as homecoming games to help raise money for schools.

Asked if this kind of "out of the box" thinking could get her in trouble as a candidate in a district of longtime, conservative Howard residents, Slack Katz responded: "So can not thinking out of the box.

"I'm not a reckless person. I'm not a careless person," Slack Katz said. "I understand that change is hard for people sometimes."

Slack Katz is talking over a dry, toasted English muffin at the Forest Diner, a U.S. 40 landmark that, like her family, seems as if it has always been in Howard County.

Actually, the diner came to the county this century; the candidate is part of a 13th generation of Howard residents. The "Slack" in the candidate's two-part last name is from the same family that owns and runs Slack Funeral Home, another county landmark.

Slack Katz will need that kind of name recognition in a part of the county that has sent another longtime resident, Republican farmer Charles C. Feaga, to the County Council for the past 12 years. Her opponent will be either Allan Kittleman, the GOP activist and son of Del. Robert H. Kittleman, or Gail Bates, Feaga's former campaign manager and his choice to succeed him.

But Slack Katz, whose family has been tracing its roots of late, jokes that she may have some help pulling Republican votes. She says she's got Republican in her blood.

"Abraham Lincoln was my fifth great uncle," and, she said, "I'm probably related to either Charlie Feaga or his wife.

"So see? Democrats and Republicans can both support me with a clear conscience."

Pub Date: 5/15/98

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