Gouge, Dell and Frazier win Three Republicans elected to Board of Commissioners

60 percent vote

Democrats fail to benefit from large turnout

November 04, 1998|By John Murphy and Brenda J. Buote | John Murphy and Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

Though few issues seemed to galvanize voters this election, Carroll County residents turned out in high numbers yesterday to place the county's future in the hands of an all-Republican Board of County Commissioners.

Former two-term commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge of Hampstead captured the most votes, with incumbent Donald I. Dell and Robin Bartlett Frazier trailing her by a slim margin. Gouge won 22 percent of the vote. Dell and Frazier each earned 18 percent.

Yesterday was the second time this decade that the Republicans captured all three seats on the Board of County Commissioners. During the last election, in 1994, Carroll voters elected newcomers W. Benjamin Brown and Richard T. Yates to serve with Dell during his second term.

More than 60 percent of the county's 76,996 registered voters went to the polls. Four years ago, the general election turnout was 66.6 percent. "We had incredible turnout. I've lived there 30 years and never seen such a crowd, even for a presidential election," said Democrat Maxine Carole Wooleyhand, one of the county's seven commissioner candidates.

But the Democrats did not benefit from the large turnout.

Democrats Perry L. Jones, Roger Larry Mann and Wooleyhand all finished with 12 percent or less of the vote. At Johanssons, where many of the party faithful gathered last night, the mood was glum. Several wondered aloud about Carroll's future growth, expressing concern about uncontrolled development. Frazier's and Bartlett's campaigns had been heavily financed by development interests.

"You might as well put up a 'For Sale' sign on the county," one Democrat was heard telling another.

Independent candidate Carolyn Fairbank, who collected 3,000 signatures to appear on the ballot, finished fourth with nearly 13 percent of the vote.

Gouge finished first, as she did in the September primary.

"It's really exciting to be the top vote-getter," she said. "The tradition is that the top vote-getter is president, and so many people have said they want me to be president. I would strive as president to bring harmony to the board and to present a united picture to the public."

She also pledged to bring more money into Carroll County by meeting frequently with leaders in Annapolis and Washington.

Dell was relieved by his victory, but blamed "negative press" and his "courage to raise taxes" for not finishing better than third.

"After this administration I had to endure a lot of negatives and even though I finished third I think it was a substantial achievement," he said. "I feel really good that the citizens of Carroll County thought enough of me after two terms to elect me to a third."

Dell said he looked forward to a "harmonious working relationship" with the board."

"I don't foresee disharmony. I think we will work well together," said Frazier.

But Donald R. Jansiewicz, professor of political science at Carroll Community College, said a one-party board is not a guarantee of a peaceful board.

"They are three individuals. The party label is not like glue that will hold them together. There will be public expectation that they will," he said. "There's not much indication from the past that they are going to function cooperatively."

Planning and development issues could be the primary issues to divide the board. Dell and Frazier support the county's new adequate facilities law, ensuring that the county can absorb 1,000 new residential units a year. Gouge, however, has said she would slow growth if infrastructure cannot keep pace with residential development.

Dell, Frazier and Gouge had a slight edge because of their party's majority in registered voters. Of the 76,996 registered voters in the county, 38,967 are Republicans, 29,855 Democrats and 7,892 Independents. Small parties account for the other 282.

Three Republicans, the first all-GOP board since 1970, have governed Carroll for the past four years, a term characterized by infighting and indecision, tax increases and the demands of a rapidly growing population. The county has nearly 150,000 residents -- double the number of people who lived here 20 years ago.

Candidates and voters this election season have stressed the importance of reversing these trends, asking that the new board not get sidetracked by squabbling over penny-pinching and political appointments.

All seven candidates campaigned on similar platforms emphasizing growth control, economic development, tax relief and agricultural preservation.

Few issues divided the candidates. Slow-growth activist Carolyn Fairbank, 45, of Sykesville, a Democrat for 23 years, forsook her party to run as an independent in the commissioner race, believing that gave her the best chance to win.

Dell, 73, the only incumbent in the race, won the chance to run again by 14 votes in the Republican primary. A two-term commissioner, Dell was criticized for twice raising taxes.

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