Delegate race has old-new theme Republican Arterburn says incumbent Bobo's ideology is outdated

October 14, 1998|By Erika Niedowski | Erika Niedowski,SUN STAFF

The way Republican state delegate candidate Todd Arterburn sees it, Columbia has two kinds of residents: those who came years ago to take part in James W. Rouse's idealistic experiment for a planned community, and those who came more recently in search of a quiet suburban city with practical benefits of good schools and low crime.

Think of it as the old Columbia vs. a newer one -- a key theme of Arterburn's campaign to unseat Democratic incumbent Elizabeth Bobo in District 12B on Nov. 3.

"She definitely represents that old Columbia," said Arterburn, 36, a banker-turned-golf-course-developer who is making his first run for elective office. "She's very committed to the ideology that government can take the lead to change society.

"It's difficult to make the case that 30 years of adherence to this liberal ideology has solved anything," he added.

Bobo, the former county executive who lost to Republican Charles I. Ecker in an upset eight years ago, doesn't bother to rebut Arterburn's use of the "L-word." She probably doesn't need to: Her legislative district, which takes in west Columbia and the southern part of Ellicott City, is one of the most Democratic districts in a predominantly Republican county.

The vision for an ideal planned community, Bobo said, is "just as appropriate and timely today as it was when James Rouse started to develop Columbia 30 years ago."

To Arterburn, though, a fiscal conservative who favors tax cuts and considers himself pro-business, the social and political climate has changed. He said many residents of Columbia's newer villages, such as Hickory Ridge, didn't move to Columbia because of Rouse's vision, but because Howard County is an attractive place to live and raise a family.

"Todd represents more of the new Columbia, and more of the idea that you can still build a great society, but you do it through free enterprise," said Louis M. Pope, chairman of the Howard County Republican Party.

Arterburn, who moved to Howard in 1984 to work for the National Security Agency, is quick to point out that almost 40 percent of the district he hopes to represent in Annapolis for the next four years lies outside the more liberal Columbia.

Republicans outnumber Democrats in two of the district's five Ellicott City-based precincts, according to the Howard County Board of Elections. The number of registered Republicans and Democrats is about equal in another.

Overall, Republicans' numbers are increasing in District 12B. Since the beginning of 1994, Republican registration has increased 13.1 percent, to 7,608, compared with a 9.6 percent increase in the number of Democrats, to 12,689.

Four years ago, Democrats and Republicans alike were surprised when Bobo's little-known 21-year-old opponent, Republican Charlie Scott, won 40 percent of the vote in the delegate race.

Both parties realize that, statistically, this year's campaign is Bobo's to lose.

Even so, Republicans continue to talk up Arterburn as the kind of candidate they will need -- not just this year, but in coming elections -- to pick up seats like 12B: He's a prodigious fund-raiser, having brought in $39,354, over $10,000 more than Bobo; he's a social moderate; and he's a self-described "citizen" legislator. "It's Your Money!" his campaign brochures declare.

Bobo says she hasn't seen much change in the issues voters care about -- education, health care and public safety -- over the past 10 years. Which is why she has no intention of changing her strategy or disguising her liberal inclinations.

Recently, with Wilde Lake High School madrigal singers in attendance to add a festive touch, Bobo joined Rouse's widow, Patty Rouse, and residents of the old Partridge Court condominiums in west Columbia to dedicate a plaque to Columbia's late developer.

L "They have a fond place in their hearts for him," said Bobo.

So does she.

"If [Arterburn] is comparing me to James Rouse," Bobo explained, "I think I would say, 'Thank you for the compliment.' "

Pub Date: 10/14/98

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