Howard hopefuls' races reflect a small-town feel

Rakes, Wilson campaign for council positions

January 31, 2002|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Howard County may have a quarter-million people, but the local political scene often makes it seem like a small town.

Diane Wilson, a Republican running for the District 3 County Council seat now occupied by Democrat Guy J. Guzzone, is one example.

David A. Rakes, another new candidate running with two other Democrats for the right to succeed veteran Councilman C. Vernon Gray in District 2, is another.

FOR THE RECORD - An article published yesterday in the Howard County edition of The Sun incorrectly reported the age of Diane Wilson, a Republican candidate for Howard County Council in District 3. She is 51. The Sun regrets the error.

Wilson, 56, a Columbia resident since 1974, was the real estate agent who sold Dennis and Sandra B. Schrader their first home in Columbia. Later, she came to work for him after his election in 1994 to the County Council. Sandra Schrader is now a state senator.

"I always had my eye on national politics and certainly on the local level. In 1992, Dennis knocked on my door," said Wilson, an Owen Brown resident and Realtor, recalling his campaign for the council seat.

Now Schrader is endorsing Wilson's campaign for his old post. Attorney Kirk J. Halpin also seeks the Republican nomination in that race. "She's a problem-solver. She really cares about people," Schrader said.

Rakes, 64, of Long Reach, a Columbia resident since 1973, recently retired from the U.S. Agency for International Development and has been a friend of Gray's for nearly 25 years. He now runs his own media consulting company.

Gray recently recommended Rakes for a spot on the state's Pension and Retirement Board of Trustees, and Rakes has served on the Howard Community College Board. Ethel Hill, another Gray ally, is his campaign manager. Gray said he has not endorsed anyone in the Democratic primary.

So far, Rakes is competing for the Democratic nomination in Gray's district with Michelle Williams, 50, a community and schools activist, and Calvin B. Ball III, 26, a former supervisor in the consumer protection division of the attorney general's office.

One Republican, Raymond J. Bly, 52, of Jessup, a used-appliance store owner, has also filed to run for Gray's seat.

Wilson said she believes some of the projects she worked on as Schrader's aide are taking too long to be finished -- such as the planned community park in North Laurel, a walking path linking Owen Brown and Kings Contrivance and the U.S. 1 revitalization campaign, which is under way.

"Guy's been in office three years. I'm just not happy with the way he's moving things along," she said.

Wilson puts less emphasis than Halpin does on the south county development battles -- mainly over the Maple Lawn Farms mixed-use development in Fulton, which is now in District 5.

"My focus is on the quality-of-life issues. Certainly, there's traffic, school equity, and we need to make sure the roads are there. But I'm not going to go back and second-guess what Guy did," she said.

Halpin, a lawyer and Columbia Council member, said the competition should help whoever gets the GOP nomination. "We'll be even more visible than we would otherwise," he said.

Rakes, the father of two adult children, said he has been involved in Columbia affairs since moving to town in 1973. His main goal, he said, is to return some of that early community spirit to a much larger and older Columbia.

"We've got to figure some way to reduce the incidence of crime," he said. "I want to work with the Board of Education to eliminate the stress of school redistricting and keep older schools up to par."

In addition, Rakes, who has served on the Long Reach Village Board and the Columbia Council, said he wants to keep blacks in elective offices. "We need to maintain that kind of diversity," he said, noting that Gray and two school board members are the only elected black officials in Howard history. Rakes, Williams and Ball are all African-Americans.

Bly, who lives in a home behind his store, said he is running partly to oppose what he sees as the effort to rid U.S. 1 of the old-line "mom-and-pop" businesses as part of the revitalization effort.

"I don't expect to win," he said.

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