Republican Scott seeks to unseat Neall in Senate Winner of primary to face no Democratic challenger Nov. 3

Campaign 1998

September 10, 1998|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,SUN STAFF

William A. Scott started campaigning hard for the District 33 state Senate seat long before he learned that Tuesday's Republican primary victor would get a free ride in November because no Democrat has entered the race.

In the final days before voters go to the polls, Scott and a band of volunteers are knocking on doors, waving at motorists from busy intersections at rush hour and placing signs strategically along thoroughfares, trying to drum up support in hopes that the little-known Scott can upset the incumbent, Sen. Robert R. Neall.

Neall, 50, who once ran his family's general store in Davidsonville, was first elected to the House of Delegates from District 33 in 1974 and served a term as county executive from 1990 to 1994. Appointed to succeed his mentor, Sen. John A. Cade, after the legislator died in midterm in November 1996, Neall is such a formidable opponent that no Democrat dared take him on.

He has won four of five elections since his first campaign for House of Delegates in 1974. Even when he lost -- a race for Congress against incumbent Tom McMillen in Anne Arundel's old 4th District -- it was only by about 400 votes.

Scott, 61, a retired Army colonel in his first race for the legislature, has raised $25,000, including a $10,000 personal loan to his campaign, and spent $11,000 as of Friday, the most recent reporting date.

Neall has spent $35,000 since November, including some of the $25,560 he had left over from 1994, when he decided not to run again for county executive.

Scott hopes his campaign's attempt to knock on nearly 7,000 doors in the district, send out three mass mailings by Election Day and reach voters by telephone will be enough. But he acknowledges that voter apathy and the power of incumbency could dash his chances.

"We won't lose for lack of trying," he said after a recent strategy session in his "bunker," the nickname for his campaign headquarters in the unfinished basement of his Davidsonville home.

Scott, who was the Defense Department's director of education for five years before retiring in 1987, has put together a decidedly conservative agenda, calling for more charter schools across the state.

In Anne Arundel County, he said, the relatively independent but publicly financed schools could be an alternative to crowded schools. But he also said he would push for funding for a West County high school in Crofton, something the Board of Education has not approved.

He also is supporting a plan written by the Calvert Institute for Policy Research, a think tank, that he said could shrink the size of state government and state debt while lowering income taxes.

Neall a key leader

For his part, Neall also promises to win money for a West County high school and said he will continue working to reduce income taxes. As a member of the Budget and Taxation Committee, Neall is a key leader in the county delegation on fiscal matters, but his effort during the last session to win a 15 percent reduction in the income-tax rate over five years, instead of Gov. Parris N. Glendening's proposed 10 percent, failed.

"I never really stop campaigning," Neall said this week. "I maintain the same pace, community meetings, constituent visits. My campaign is essentially to remind folks of what I have accomplished."

But while Neall would like to remind voters of his record in the legislature and in the county, Scott likes to remind them of the controversy that surrounded Neall's brief stint as a registered lobbyist after his appointment to fill Cade's seat in December 1996.

Neall drew criticism from fellow Republicans and political watchdog group Common Cause/Maryland when he renewed his registration to lobby in Anne Arundel County on behalf of two developers weeks after his hurried appointment to the District 33 seat. It would have been the first time a person served in the legislature while being a lobbyist.

Criticized for lobbying

Neall, who opened an Annapolis consulting firm in 1994 after his term as county executive, was stung by the uproar and terminated his connection with the clients, though legal under state law.

He now is director of marketing for Johns Hopkins Health Care.

Scott, who holds a law degree but does not practice, criticizes Neall for even attempting to continue working as a lobbyist after his appointment.

"It's time for a change," Scott said. "He just owes too many people too many things."

Neall dismisses the matter, saying he got hammered for trying to follow the law while he completed work for clients.

"Of course I'm connected here, but I really think the decision in this election is whether I have been an effective and constructive senator and in my previous public service," he said. "It's sort of a cumulative thing."

Pub Date: 9/10/98

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