County politicians expect this election to be quieter than last Few face opponents in Council primaries

August 24, 1998|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

The hot and humid political picnic held by Dundalk County Councilman Louis L. DePazzo at Merritt Point Park recently featured an unusual bit of political theater.

Wearing a blue jersey and puffing on a skinny cigar under his red U.S. Marine Corps cap, DePazzo, a Democrat, watched as madras-clad T. Bryan McIntire, his courtly Republican colleague from the North County's valleys, warmly endorsed him. County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger -- who backs them both -- was master of ceremonies.

It's that kind of year -- incumbents vs. outsiders -- in Baltimore County politics.

"You don't hear 'get the rascals out' like you used to," says DePazzo, who is trying to fight off a determined young challenger -- John A. "Johnny O" Olszewski, 38.

After two elections this decade that each saw five of the Baltimore County Council's seven members replaced, this primary marks a kinder, gentler -- and quieter -- political season for incumbents.

Only one member, Towson Republican Douglas B. Riley, isn't seeking re-election, and with a good economy, tax money flowing into old and new county neighborhoods and a seemingly popular county executive's backing, most councilmen are hoping to survive.

Only two incumbent councilmen, Democrats DePazzo, 65, and Vincent J. Gardina, 43, of Perry Hall, have primary opposition.

Competition in 4th District

The struggle for succession in the 4th District between two of Riley's admirers -- Kathleen F. Beadell, 38, and Wayne M. Skinner, 44 -- appears the most competitive primary contest.

Beadell, a real estate broker, mother of two young boys and president of the Greater Timonium Community Council, says her election would be a boost for diversity on the all-male council. "I'm a woman, a mom, a wife and a businessperson and activist," she says, adding that improving education is her greatest interest.

"I see the council person's role as a bridge," she said, especially in school matters that are directly controlled by the school board. "It's not just cutting the budget -- it's lobbying the executive branch," she says.

Skinner is a longtime state employee and community activist who has served on both the county Planning and Recreation and Parks boards, as director of the Towson Development Corp. and as president of the Towson-Loch Raven community council.

"This is just like a natural step up for me," he says, referring to efforts to reopen a county branch library in Loch Raven, to curb rowdy behavior outside after-hours clubs and a skating rink off Joppa Road, and to help Towson businesses.

"My No. 1 issue is crime," he says. "Although crime has gone down, people do not feel safe. I'd like to fund more police officers," Skinner says. He's also interested in school reform, starting with elimination of the state MSPAP tests. They mark schools unfairly, he said, and discourage people from buying homes near schools with poor or marginal scores.

Although retired state employee Walter E. Boyd, 72, also is running, he concedes that the real race is between Beadell and Skinner. The Republican primary -- typically decided by about 5,000 voters in a district of 100,000 people -- will likely determine the 4th District winner, because the lone Democrat who filed, John J. Appel, 73, isn't campaigning.

Former Orphan's Court judge

Incumbents Gardina and DePazzo face opposition. In the 5th District Democratic primary, former 24-year Orphan's Court judge Alexander B. Page Jr., 71, is Gardina's opponent. He holds the two-term councilman responsible for everything from Chesapeake Bay pollution to the loss of the Middle River Racing Association's proposed motor raceway to Anne Arundel County, he says.

Gardina is stressing his efforts to cut zoning density in Honeygo, a 3,000-acre planned community north of White Marsh, to build school additions, make repairs and buy parkland, and to speed removal and redevelopment of decaying Essex-Middle River apartments like the Riverdale complex on Eastern Boulevard.

In the 7th District, DePazzo's challenger Olszewski has been working methodically for months with backing from the large Battle Grove Democratic Club to erode support for the incumbent.

Olszewski is vice president of the club, which expelled DePazzo as a renegade Democrat who backed Republican congressman Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. instead of his own party's candidates.

"I want to be a voice for the district -- for the people," Olszewski says. "I'm here to let them know they have a choice," he says, claiming people are tired of DePazzo's mercurial personality and his support for the plan to sell and renovate the Hidden Cove apartments with public subsidies, or his zoning change to increase density for the Beachwood Estates development in North Point despite the objections of neighbors.

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