Schrader for GOP in Howard Sun endorsement: Republican voters should pick candidate with administrative experience.

September 02, 1998

THIS IS A tough primary election for Howard County Republicans. With many good candidates, it's hard to choose. That's a far cry from years ago. Longtime party members recall when they would stand around the Board of Elections on filing day trying to decide at the last minute who would run for what. There were too few of them to seek every office.

Democrats still constitute a majority in Howard, but the number of registered Republicans has grown. And many conservative Democrats vote Republican. Three of the five County Council members are Republicans. So is County Executive Charles I. Ecker, who is running for governor.

The credibility of Republican campaigns has invigorated the local party with newcomers who want a piece of the action. Old-timers have welcomed them, but not without some resentment that the upstarts are dining on the fruits of their labor.

That friction is evident in the GOP primary for executive. Freshman County Council member Dennis R. Schrader, a Buffalo, N.Y., native who moved to Columbia 11 years ago, is challenging three-term council member Charles C. Feaga, a workhorse of the local party whose family has farmed in Howard for decades.

So split were county Republicans they sought -- unsuccessfully -- a pledge of unity behind the Republicans who win the primary. The disarray has the sole Democratic candidate for executive, former police chief James N. Robey, smelling the votes of disgruntled Republicans he may get on Nov. 3.

Republicans who can get past loyalties based on who has been around the longest will figure out that Mr. Schrader is their best candidate. While he and Mr. Feaga have been effective public servants, Mr. Schrader has been more willing to compromise when necessary to move the county forward.

Mr. Schrader is not "anti-growth." He and Mr. Feaga have received campaign money from developers. But Mr. Schrader has more consistently opposed development that outpaces the county's ability to provide roads and schools. He voted against the Rouse Co.'s plan for a mixed-use community with 1,400 homes in North Laurel because he felt the project was too heavily residential and would crowd schools and roads. Indeed, Mr. Schrader provided the swing vote that garnered more funds for Howard schools when others were being stingy with the county's budget surplus.

His background as a Navy Reserve officer and a vice president of the University of Maryland Medical System gives him administrative experience that Mr. Feaga lacks. That is critical in running a county government with a $400 million budget.

The Sun endorses Dennis Schrader for the Republican nomination for Howard County executive.

Tomorrow: Anne Arundel

Howard County executive

Candidates: Republicans are Charles C. Feaga and Dennis R. Schrader. Democrat James N. Robey is running uncontested.

Data: 1994 primary turnout: 72% of Democrats and 69% of Republicans. Salary: $88,500. Term: four years.

The county: After eight years with Republican Charles I. Ecker at the helm, Howard's 238,000 residents are looking for a new leader. Business is booming near the planned town of Columbia, with seven of the region's 20 largest business and industrial parks in that area. Columbia's wealth continues to spread as new subdivisions sprout where agriculture once thrived.

The challenge: Howard is experiencing growing pains. Future development must ensure an adequate tax base to pay for new infrastructure. As farmers continue to sell to developers, the open space that makes Howard attractive must be preserved.

Pub Date: 9/02/98

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