Gary, Owens back away from pledge of civility Executive candidates don't meet at Unity Day

October 13, 1998|By Tom Pelton | Tom Pelton,SUN STAFF

In a sign that the campaign for Anne Arundel County executive is taking a turn for the rude, the Republican and Democratic candidates appear to have backed away from plans for a public pledge of civility.

Neither John G. Gary nor Janet Owens admits flip-flopping on the politeness issue, which Owens had been using to highlight what Gary's critics describe as his reputation for picking fights.

But at the Unity Day civil rights festival at Annapolis High School Sunday, neither followed through with a commitment to pledge to run a civil campaign, said Carl O. Snowden, an organizer of the event.

"Not only is this race going to be less civil than I expected, I think it is going to get very negative in the next few weeks," said Snowden, a Democratic former Annapolis alderman and mayoral candidate.

"Clearly, Mr. Gary has been tagged [by the Owens camp] as a schoolyard bully, and that image is working against him. So he is trying to portray her as incompetent. Each side really wants to win," Snowden said.

The racial harmony event Sunday was sponsored in part by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and was attended by about 175 people.

Gary showed up about 2 p.m. and stayed until about 3: 30. Owens showed up about 3: 40 p.m. and left by 4: 30 p.m. Neither attended a 6 p.m. event during which Snowden said Gary and Owens had pledged to link arms to symbolize their not running negative campaigns.

David Sheehan, Owens' campaign manager, denied that Owens had backed away from a civility pledge and said Snowden was exaggerating the significance of the two candidates' failure to coordinate their appearances.

"Everyone knows that Janet Owens is a civil human being. To make a public pledge would be redundant," said Sheehan, who is Owens' husband.

Owens' campaign literature proclaims that her platform includes "to restore civility, competence and integrity to county government."

After an article in The Sun Sept. 25 announcing plans for the joint appearance at the Unity Day festival, some of Owens' supporters told her during a meeting at Old South Country Club that they they didn't want her pulling her punches.

Owens distributed a news release that day that called Gary a "schoolyard bully" and said that "my administration will keep to its promise to restore civility to county government."

George Shenk, Gary's campaign manager, said Gary had been prepared to make a public civility pledge during the Unity Day event Sunday and would have done so had Owens appeared when Gary was there.

"We are seeing her [Owens] back away from civility as part of her campaign," Shenk said. "And I believe that we are hearing the rumblings of some very negative attacks from her supporters in the teachers' association."

Snowden said Gary made it clear that he had to leave the event early. Gary linked arms with Carol S. Parham, the county superintendent of schools, and participated in a game with her in which they jointly balanced a ball on a paddle.

Neither Gary nor Owens attended the 6 p.m. three-legged race, which had been billed as an opportunity for them to jointly pledge to run a civil campaign.

Pub Date: 10/13/98

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