Candidates plan pledge of civility County executive, rival to bar rudeness from campaign

Public promise on Oct. 11

Statement to be made during Unity Day at Annapolis High School

September 25, 1998|By Tom Pelton | Tom Pelton,SUN STAFF

With the elected leaders in the nation's capital fighting over the implications of a stained dress and oral sex, the term "polite politicians" sounds like an oxymoron.

But the candidates in Anne Arundel County's executive race are planning to make a public pledge Oct. 11 to bar rudeness and incivility from their campaigns.

Republican County Executive John G. Gary and Democratic challenger Janet S. Owens, however, are squabbling over exactly how to make this promise of pleasantness.

Owens wants to tie her leg to Gary's and run a three-legged race in a symbolic demonstration that even opponents can work together.

But Gary's campaign manager is concerned that this might detract from the gravity of the announcement. More specifically, he's worried about the effect gravity might have on the bear-like executive and his smaller opponent.

"If John falls on her, he'll kill her, and then he'd win the race by default. I don't know if that would be fair," laughed George Shenk Jr., treasurer of Gary's campaign.

Shenk suggested that a handshake and a joint statement might be a more civilized way to make a declaration of civility.

No matter how they do it, the candidates plan to make their joint pledge during a festival called Unity Day being held next month at Annapolis High School.

This celebration of racial unity is being sponsored by the Anne Arundel chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Young Women's Christian Association and several local churches, said Carl O. Snowden, a civil rights activist who is helping to coordinate the event.

Snowden said he is trying to organize a three-legged race that would involve not only Gary and Owens, but also Democratic Gov. Parris N. Glendening and his Republican challenger, Ellen R. Sauerbrey. The latter two have been invited, but have not yet committed.

"We want to take candidates who have different philosophies and different points of view and tie them together as a symbolic way of showing that even different people can work together by being civil and decent," Snowden said.

Owens, the former director of the county's Office of Aging, said she likes Snowden's idea of strapping herself to Gary and promising to refrain from personal attacks during their campaign.

"I fundamentally disagree with some of the things that Mr. Gary has done, but I have nothing personal against him," Owens said. "Running a clean race has been part of my platform all along."

Gary is in favor of the pledge of civility, especially after putting up for several months with the personal attacks of former county executive candidate Diane R. Evans, who lost to Owens in last week's Democratic primary, said Shenk.

"This is important because civility is something voters really want to see. They are really tired of all the accusations and personal attacks going on in Washington," Shenk said.

However, Gary does not want their two-party race to be demeaned by a three-legged race.

"Conceptually, we like the idea. But we think the issue is more serious than that," Shenk said.

Pub Date: 9/25/98

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