Gun raffle spurs GOP member's departure

Former official bolts to Carroll Democrats

March 11, 2001|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

Upset by her party's decision to raffle off guns to raise money for the local GOP, Betty L. Smith, former vice chairwoman of the Carroll County Republican Central Committee, announced yesterday that she will switch parties tomorrow and become a Democrat.

"I think the [Republican] party is out of step with the people of this county," Smith said. "Instead of bringing money back to Carroll for roads and schools, our state leaders are trying to figure out how they're going to raise money to print raffle tickets."

Every member of the Carroll delegation in Annapolis supports the central committee's decision to hold a gun raffle this year, and several are co-sponsoring the fund-raiser. W. David Blair, vice chairman of the central committee, announced details of the raffle yesterday during the group's annual legislative breakfast.

"Either they think we didn't get the message last year, or they're doing it for sheer profit," said Smith, 52, who resigned from the central committee last year to protest the group's first gun raffle. "Either way, I can't stomach it. It sends a terrible message to our youth. Children see adults, politicians who are leaders, making money off of selling guns, and they might think it's all right to use them."

Smith, who runs a picture-framing business with her husband, has been a Republican for five years. An independent for many years, the Uniontown resident joined the party while working as a legal assistant for former Carroll County State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman.

She was appointed to the central committee to fill a vacancy in 1997. She was elected to the panel a year later. She had failed in a run for county commissioner the same year.

"I feel very sorry for the Republicans," said Smith. "I think they need to ask themselves what the party is doing for them. The Republicans have had control of this county for 10 years and what do we have to show for it?"

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