Referendum on development Howard County: Flap about Schrader's contributions not as pivotal as his stance on growth.

September 17, 1998

THE VICTORY of Dennis R. Schrader over fellow Howard County Council member Charles C. Feaga in the Republican primary for county executive was also a referendum on development. Mr. Schrader won despite questions about controversial campaign contributions because voters viewed him as the best candidate to manage growth.

Mr. Schrader solicited campaign contributions from contractors with whom he did business as an executive at the University of Maryland Medical System. But he returned the money after the apparent ethical lapse was reported by The Sun.

The potentially damaging revelation did not cost Mr. Schrader the election. Perhaps voters recalled questions about Mr. Feaga's ethics two years ago, when he voted for a zoning change sought by developers who had bought some of his family's farmland.

Mr. Feaga's loss means his impressive tenure on the council will end after 12 years. But this stalwart of the local GOP will likely continue to play an active role in Howard County politics.

Mr. Feaga congratulated Mr. Schrader on winning the nomination, but stopped short of endorsing him. That leaves open the possibility that Mr. Feaga and some of his supporters might back the Democrat, former police Chief James N. Robey, to succeed Republican County Executive Charles I. Ecker, who lost in his bid for governor.

Mr. Robey, who had no primary opposition, has been relatively quiet while the Republicans battled. Now he must let voters know where he stands on key issues.

Future growth in Howard County must include an appropriate mix of residential and commercial development to pay for the schools and infrastructure needed to serve a growing population. The person who shows he is most capable of shepherding such measured growth is worthy of becoming Howard's next executive.

Pub Date: 9/17/98

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