Craig and Helton for Harford Sun endorsements: For executive, senator gets nod over Del. Harkins for GOP

Democratic choice is easier.

September 01, 1998

A FUNNY THING happened on the way to the governor's mansion for Eileen M. Rehrmann. Not only did she halt her campaign a month before the Sept. 14 primary, her legacy has been getting a drubbing this summer in her own back yard.

Many Harford County residents don't think growth has been so "smart," and they are distressed by school crowding, juvenile crime, traffic and loss of open space (even if they moved in recently and contributed to it themselves). The angst echoes 1990, when Ms. Rehrmann took office. In this back-to-the-future climate, two Democrats and two Republicans seek to succeed her.

The GOP primary, the county's most hotly contested race, pits state Sen. David R. Craig, 49, against Del. James M. Harkins, 44. Both are strong candidates, but we endorse Mr. Craig.

His administrative experience as a former mayor of Havre de Grace and as an assistant school principal better suits him for the executive's job. He's wonkish and low-key, but policy nerds have historically made solid Harford executives. His solutions seem more concrete than his opponent's. For example, he seeks ways to retool a planning and zoning process that has fostered, in his words, "developments, not communities." He seeks to encourage higher-priced residential development to revitalize the county waterfront.

Mr. Harkins' emphasis is similar, but his solutions are strained. To slow growth, for instance, he offers the "HOG" plan ("Holding Our Ground"), which seems overly reliant on farmland easements. He envisions a "Route 40 technology parkway," an unlikely place for the next Silicon Valley. And to fight crime, the county deputy sheriff proposes citizens' panels to impose such penalties as essays and apologies on first-time youth offenders. The public desires more.

In the Democratic primary, Arthur Henry Helton, 59, a former state senator and county council member, deserves to win handily over Robert W. Cos, 50, owner of an engineering and consulting firm.

Mr. Helton, whose background in local politics goes back nearly 30 years, has assiduously attended community planning meetings in the past year to learn residents' concerns. A franchisee of auto parts stores, he has the business background the job demands. Mr. Cos' candidacy, meanwhile, lies mostly in a dispute with a fire company to which he once belonged. Mr. Helton is the clear choice.

Tomorrow: Howard executive

Pub Date: 9/01/98

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