State's top man down on Carroll

Governor, county in rocky relationship

June 18, 2000|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

In handing out a record amount of school construction money last month, Gov. Parris N. Glendening invited officials from Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Harford and Howard counties to the podium, where the politicians exchanged handshakes and flashed big smiles. They swapped jokes. They called on their sizable entourages to stand and collect a smattering of polite applause.

Carroll County was getting $6.8 million in state construction funding that day, but there was no hint that its representatives were at the news conference.

Carroll officials - 11 of them were in attendance that day - say that the gubernatorial snub was typical treatment from Maryland's chief executive and that the fiercely Democratic governor often ignores the only county in the state with all-Republican state and county delegations.

That rocky relationship was apparent again last week, when Glendening singled out Carroll County as a consistent laggard in adopting Smart Growth policies to contain sprawl. The governor's criticism came during an otherwise upbeat speech to an Ocean City convention of mayors and other municipal leaders.

Though somewhat hurt by an attack that they say was undeserved, Carroll officials were not surprised.

"I don't think our relationship with the governor has soured," said Del. Joseph M. Getty, a Republican and nearly lifelong resident of Manchester. "I don't think there was ever a relationship there."

The governor's bitterness began, many in Carroll say, when 72 percent of the county chose Ellen R. Sauerbrey over Glendening in the 1994 gubernatorial election, a margin of defeat second only to that in Garrett County.

Four years later, 67 percent of Carroll voted for Sauerbrey, handing Glendening his largest loss margin in the state.

Political observers say the subsequent conflicts come as no surprise.

"Carroll County isn't going to do well under a liberal Democratic regime like Glendening's," said James Gimpel, a government and politics professor at the University of Maryland. "Glendening is a very political man, and you can't get much further apart than the Carroll County mainstream from Glendening. Carroll County isn't just Republican.

"It's a brand of Republicanism that says, `Let us do our own thing, unencumbered and unfettered by a lot of government regulation and control.'"

A Democratic desert

Carroll has supported only two Democratic presidential candidates since 1920. The Democratic officials it has elected have been conservative to moderate.

And when Elmer C. Lippy Jr. lost his 1998 bid for Orphan's Court judge, the former Manchester mayor, county commissioner and fixture in local Democratic politics for 15 years remarked to a reporter that "Christ couldn't get elected in Carroll County if he was a Democrat."

The county traditionally has aligned itself with the agrarian values of Western Maryland and the region's staunch support of property rights, unobtrusive government and low taxes.

"I think we are very much considerate of property rights and do try to keep that in mind with our zoning," said County Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier. "Sometimes that flies in the face of Smart Growth, but it's just the conservative point of view.

"If you support the Constitution of the United States, which is what we swear our oath to, those are the rights granted to the citizens of this country, and our job is to uphold those rights for the citizens of Carroll County."

Same beliefs

Although natives and longtime residents worried in the 1960s that growth of the suburbs into Carroll might dim those beliefs, that hasn't occurred, Getty said.

"The people who have moved into Carroll County have in many ways adopted the value system here," he said. "They wanted smaller, tight-knit communities, rural charm, moral values, low crime and good schools."

More often than not, the county's legislators have voted against their governor.

Carroll's Republican Central Committee raffled off a 9 mm Beretta handgun this year while the centerpiece of the governor's legislative agenda was gun safety.

Sen. Larry E. Haines, leader of Carroll's all-Republican delegation, set the tone among his colleagues, supporting only two of Glendening's budgets during the governor's six years in office.

"This governor has had a pretty far-left agenda, and he's been very candid about it," Haines explained. "He's promoted gun control, gay rights legislation and abortion rights, and Carroll County's representatives have been on the other side of the fence on those issues."

In return, Carroll officials say, they've been snubbed and slighted at public functions more times than they can count. And they've seen major projects - the bypasses for Westminster and Manchester, a police training center in Sykesville and a much-needed well for South Carroll - derailed, threatened and delayed by the Glendening administration.

Cool reception

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