Losers keep coming back County's candidates don't equate defeat with rejection

'Never get discouraged'

Repeated losses stiffen resolve of many hopefuls

Campaign 1998

July 17, 1998|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Never:

A. Equate losing with rejection.

B. Say "I won't run."

C. Dwell on a bad outcome when you can think about the people who gathered in your name.

That's what it takes to keep running for office after racking up repeated losses.

"I never get discouraged in anything," says veteran marketer Eugene R. Zarwell. Failure to win has not dampened his zeal for public office, where he believes his "less government-more business" ideas would help the economy.

He ran twice for U.S. Senate -- in 1988 and 1992. Speaking from his one-bedroom apartment in Crofton, he says he misses the waterfront home in Severna Park he sold to pay his 1988 campaign debt. He also ran once for the 5th District congressional seat.

On July 4, he awoke at 4 a.m. with the urge to be Maryland comptroller. Several hours later, he learned that long-time Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein, died. Zarwell now hopes that name recognition from his three losses will give him a boost.

He attributed his 1992 GOP Senate primary loss in part to being the alphabetically challenged candidate -- No. 15.

L "You had to kneel on the floor to reach the lever," he says.

He pondered -- fleetingly -- changing his name for future better ballot position. "I thought about making it Arwell," he says.

Like elsewhere, Anne Arundel County has repeat losers and a primary ballot rich in people trying for a comeback or second shot.

Experts say there's a reason for that: Ego gratification. Your children won't listen to you at home, but groupies will applaud your words and pay money to hear them. You can see your own face in places other than the mirror, there is public adulation, and people will eat lousy food in your honor.

'Ultimate aphrodisiac'

"Political power is the ultimate aphrodisiac," said psychologist Thomas E. Florestano, former Anne Arundel Community College president and now a county school board member, who attributes "99.9 percent" of office-seeking to inflated sense of self.

"It's very heady stuff to have control over the community where you live," admits Dennis Callahan, one-term mayor of Annapolis.

He sought re-election in 1989, ran for county executive in 1990 and again for mayor in 1993 and 1997 -- all unsuccessfully.

"There is no attraction in losing," Callahan said. "Running is not to demonstrate that I can be conciliatory after a loss. To the winner go the spoils. You are talking about appointing department heads and everything else. To a very great extent, that is the attraction" -- not ruling out another try.

The enjoyment of public service shouldn't be downplayed, either.

"I think I am qualified and experienced to serve well and to attack the current problems that our county has. I enjoy government service, I have been at it a long time, I do it well," Democrat Bill D. Burlison says. He is running for the County Council's 4th District, the West County. Again. Against the candidate who beat him four years ago.

Burlison, the longtime U.S. representative from Missouri was voted out of office in 1980 after a political scandal, came to Maryland the next year and began losing local races a year later. He lost races for the Prince George's County Council in 1982, state delegate from the 33rd District in west Anne Arundel County in 1986 and 1990, and 4th District seat on the Anne Arundel Council in 1994. He's working hard in a rematch to capture a post that eluded him four years ago.

Son is running

For the first time in 28 years, Democrat H. Erle Schafer, is not on the local ballot. He's doing everything else the same, though, because his son David is seeking the very 2nd District County Council seat where the elder Schafer got his start. In a roller-coaster career, the elder Schafer won some race every eight years, though he ran every four. He doesn't have to miss rewards from public service; he's in charge of the county's drug court and loving it.

Republican Robert G. Pepersack hopes for the same 2nd District council seat come November. He lost his 1994 bid for re-election for county sheriff after a much-criticized stint in that office. High points included sending deputies to direct traffic at a July 4, 1994, fund-raiser for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bill Brock, and a state prosecutor's conclusion that Pepersack ordered deputies to check criminal backgrounds of Pepersack's tenants and used questionable judgment on other matters. A 1997 federal judgment of $31,100 against him and his top deputy for sexual harassment and gender discrimination is on appeal. (The deputy, J. Patrick Ogle, is making a bid for sheriff this year.)

Seeks to regain seat

Democrat Victor A. Sulin has a 1-for-3 record in seeking local elected office. This year he's trying to regain the 32nd District delegate seat he lost in 1994.

Sulin often could do without other politicians. But schmoozing with camp followers? Smiling at endless civic events? It's a hobby, like skiing; a social activity, like boating.

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