Gary takes others to task Executive corrects fellow candidates at chamber forum

'I enjoy that opportunity'

Hopefuls give views on golf course, taxes, retaining business

October 08, 1998|By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan | Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan,SUN STAFF

A forum for political candidates in Glen Burnie set the stage last night for County Executive John G. Gary to play the role of the "schoolyard bully" his opponent has assigned to him -- sauntering in late and pointedly correcting others' remarks.

Gary showed up minutes after the forum began at 7 p.m. at the Glen Burnie High School auditorium, strolling up a long aisle to take his seat on stage while the executive director of the Northern Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce was giving his welcoming speech. The chamber organized the event.

During the forum, Gary shook his head or inspected his fingernails and twirled his pen while other candidates talked. The Republican county executive also corrected other candidates three times.

"Everybody who has spoken has no idea what they're talking about," Gary said, after five candidates -- including his opponent, Democrat Janet Owens -- stressed that they would push for a golf course to be developed on county land along Fort Smallwood Road. "The golf course is already under contract to be built," Gary said.

Asked about Gary's attitude during a break, Owens rolled her eyes and said, "It's one thing to criticize me, but to criticize all the County Council candidates, including members of his own party?

"He basically said, 'No one except for me is right.' "

Gary said during the break that he thought the forum was going well.

"It gives us an opportunity to hear the statements of the other candidates and then state the correct facts if they're wrong," Gary said. "I enjoy having that opportunity."

Organized by the chamber to showcase the viewpoints of lTC Owens, Gary and County Council candidates from the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Districts, the forum drew about 50 people.

The council candidates were Democrat Pamela G. Beidle and Republican Gerald Starr of the 1st District; Democrat Daniel Klosterman and Republican Robert G. Pepersack Sr. of the 2nd District; and Democrat A. Shirley Murphy and Republican Carl G. "Dutch" Holland of the 3rd District.

Although many candidates had requested not to be seated next to their opponents, they were assigned to those seats anyway and seemed to spend most of the forum sitting stiffly, as if trying to avoid contact.

Moderators asked the candidates various questions, most of them provided ahead of time, to which most of them gave scripted answers. The questions covered issues including improving business retention in north county; the tax cap; and communication between county government and the school board, a topic Gary seized upon to criticize the school board.

Although the atmosphere was largely collegial, some candidates began to pick up on Gary's tone after a while.

When talking about community policing, Beidle mentioned that the county had hired 100 new police officers this year, then turned to Gary and asked, "Am I correct?"

Gary answered affirmatively.

When Owens discussed balancing growth in the county, she brought up the Glen Burnie Town Center, which Gary had mentioned earlier and attributed to his administration.

"Mr. Gary claims credit for the Glen Burnie Town Center," Owens said. "I would argue that there are many citizens that are responsible for bringing this to its groundbreaking."

She drew loud applause.

Pub Date: 10/08/98

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