Adler may try run at Robey

Republican says he's `a solid 50-50' for executive's race

Savage Mill managing partner

Howard County

November 27, 2001|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Savage Mill's managing partner Steven H. Adler is thinking about running for Howard County executive next year - the first Republican to surface as a possible opponent for Democratic incumbent James N. Robey.

"I'm a solid 50-50, maybe with a little leaning that I might do it," said Adler, who worked in Republican Dennis R. Schrader's campaign against Robey three years ago.

"Whomever would run against Jim would have an uphill battle," Adler said. "It's a big personal decision."

At the same time, he sounds much like someone itching for the fray.

"I do feel my ability to make a difference and to contribute as a private citizen is probably at its peak," said Adler, 49, of Clarksville. "I am very confident that I could do the job as Howard County executive in a very businesslike, fiscally prudent manner."

Adler is being wooed by some Republicans who see him as a vigorous, articulate person to carry the GOP's banner against a popular, tough-to-beat incumbent.

"I think he'd be an excellent candidate," county Republican Party Chairman Louis M. Pope said.

Pope noted Adler's involvement in myriad community issues - from economic revitalization of the U.S. 1 corridor to charitable and political groups. "He's a very capable individual," Pope said.

Adler - with county financial help - oversaw the rebirth of Savage Mill, a 19th-century manufacturing center recycled into a complex of retail shops and restaurants. After struggling for several years, the mill is a commercial engine for the area.

Robey figures to be a difficult candidate to unseat, observers say.

"I think people are very happy with what Jim's been doing as county executive and don't see a reason for change," said Wendy Fiedler, the county Democratic Party chairwoman.

Republicans acknowledge Robey's popularity.

"I think right now Robey looks to be a very strong incumbent, but we're in for tough [economic] sledding," said Del. Robert L. Flanagan, minority whip in the House of Delegates.

"There's a year until the election - that's a lifetime in politics," he said, noting that incumbent Democratic Executive Elizabeth Bobo looked unbeatable in 1990, until political novice Charles I. Ecker won.

Robey has not formally declared for a second term, though he has had several small fund-raisers, and most of Howard's politicians believe he will run again. He is not likely to declare his intentions until early next year, he has said.

Adler, appointed by Robey to help lead revitalization of the U.S. 1 corridor, said, "I think Jim has done a reasonable and good job."

But that might not be enough in the tougher economic times that seem to be coming, he said.

The pace of change on U.S. 1 needs to be faster, and Howard County's executive should "speak up more" on statewide and regional issues, Adler said.

"My approach is more hands-on, businesslike," he said, adding that the county needs to tap into the talents of "really bright" residents not involved in public issues.

Robey had nothing bad to say about Adler, even after they discussed Adler's possible candidacy two weeks ago, the executive said.

"Steve's a great guy," Robey said. "He's done a lot for the county. If he decides to become a candidate, that's great. If I'm running and he's running, it would be a great campaign. We're both gentlemen."

C. Vernon Gray, the five-term County Council Democrat, agreed that Adler is "a wonderful person and a good businessman."

But if he wants a new challenge, Gray said, "he will find running for executive, or any political office, the challenge of his life."

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