County executive candidates James N. Robey and Dennis R. Schrader resisted attacking each other at a candidates forum in Elkridge last night, just two days after they traded brass-knuckle punches through the press.
The community forum at Elkridge Landing Middle School was the candidates' first meeting since Republican Schrader politely had told a gathering of elderly citizens Monday night that he wouldn't criticize his "friend" Robey, a Democrat.
The next morning, Schrader took the gloves off at a news conference, questioning the retired police chief's integrity, labeling him a "captive" of employee unions and accusing him of stealing campaign ideas.
Robey immediately shot back that Schrader, a first-term county councilman, has changed his positions on issues to appeal to voters, and that Schrader's "trashy" news conference had raised questions about his character.
But last night, they shook hands and remained civil, observing the unwritten etiquette of community forums.
"He hasn't knocked me at any of the forums yet, and I sure won't knock him," said Robey, 57, a county native. "I don't think the intelligent voter in Howard County wants to see someone get up there and criticize the other candidate. They don't want to hear that."
And besides, they each had only three minutes to speak.
"You only get so much time," said Schrader, 45, a hospital executive. "If I had half an hour, I could go into more of a jTC dissertation. I want to make sure they hear from me on issues for this local area."
Schrader and Robey focused their remarks on managing growth and education.
Robey said citizens would play a role in his planning future growth for the county.
"We're running out of a very important product here, and that's land," he said.
Schrader's remarks were crafted for his Elkridge audience.
He discussed the "historic character" of the community and the importance of planning in the revitalization of older communities.
"How we redevelop and where we redevelop is going to be very important," said Schrader, who has emphasized a need for more commercial development as part of his campaign.
Schrader's Tuesday news conference targeting Robey marked the beginning of a six-week campaign effort for the councilman that is expected to be more hard-hitting and better-financed than Robey's.
Robey expects to spend less than $100,000 between now and the Nov. 3 general election, while Schrader plans to spend as much as $150,000.
The former police chief also has said he will not attack Schrader in his television commercials or mailings, although he may take a new tack if Schrader's advertising demands a response.
Schrader began raising money yesterday with a breakfast fund-raiser at the Savage Mill that an aide said took in more than $15,000.
About 50 people attended the event, including nearly a dozen black business leaders who are uniting to back the Republican candidate.