Rather switch than fight

Carroll County: New Democrat Gullo found his fiercest opponents were former fellow Republicans.

October 14, 1999

NEW WINDSOR Mayor Jack Gullo Jr. may govern a small Carroll County town, but his decision to quit the Republican Party and become a Democrat garnered a lot of attention. It's not often that the governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates stage a press conference to promote the fortunes of a fellow elected official with all of 1,200 constituents.

Democratic leaders appear overjoyed to have a young, talented politician join their ranks, particularly in Carroll County where their party is all but extinct. Last year's election purged the county's State House delegation of its sole Democrat. No Democrat holds countywide office. Obviously, party leaders hope Mr. Gullo may be the focus of a rebuilding effort.

Mr. Gullo's party-switching has more to do with personality than with partisanship or party principles, however. Mr. Gullo identified closely with Republicans when he returned to Carroll from law school seven years ago to become Maryland's youngest elected mayor at age 24. But his relations with other GOP officials soured over time. On planning issues and on a proposal to switch the form of county government from commissioner to charter, Mr. Gullo found fellow party members to be his stiffest opponents. Republicans vigorously opposed him most recently last summer when he moved to let New Windsor's council choose the winner in an election that ended in a tie, as state law allows.

Switching parties will likely only worsen his relations with Carroll's other officials. It may not matter. Mr. Gullo will work to parlay his new Democratic credentials and his position as president of the Maryland Municipal League into closer relations with the governor and General Assembly leadership.

Town elections are nonpartisan affairs, but we'll find out if voters approve of his decision to switch should he run for a third term as mayor next spring.

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