Local politics 101 Anne Arundel: Education will be at the forefront of county election, as Evans learned the hard way.

September 17, 1998

VOTERS in Anne Arundel County thwarted conventional wisdom Tuesday. Janet S. Owens' victory in the Democratic primary over two-term councilwoman Diane R. Evans proved wrong the pre-election platitudes about the importance of name recognition and support from the elected party leadership and about the withered state of organized labor.

Even though Ms. Evans is well-known, her 11th-hour switch from Republican (and a conservative one at that) to Democrat did not sit well with voting party members. Although Ms. Evans wanted to aggressively challenge her archrival, County Executive John G. Gary, the party faithful did not want her to carry the Democratic mantle in November.

Ms. Owens' victory also demonstrated that Ms. Evans' support from Democratic leaders such as Gov. Parris N. Glendening and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller carried little weight with rank-and-file voters. A slim majority ignored the advice of professional politicians that Ms. Evans would be the Democrats' best hope against the incumbent.

As for the general assumption that labor is in disarray, the union support Ms. Owens received early on probably provided her winning margin. The Teachers' Association of Anne Arundel County, angered at Ms. Evans and Mr. Gary for county government's protracted battle with the Board of Education, no doubt motivated members and supporters to turn out and vote.

The results of this primary are clear: Residents are unhappy that education budgeting has become so contentious. Since the county school board and superintendent are not elected, voters can only target their ire at elected officials.

Ms. Evans paid the price. Mr. Gary has been tempering his antagonism toward the school system. Whether he's too late, he will know in seven weeks.

Pub Date: 9/17/98

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