Gray enters race for Senate

20-year council member announces his candidacy for state's District 13 seat

`Going to run a good race'

Challenging Schrader, who was named to post when Madden resigned

April 17, 2002|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Howard County Council Chairman C. Vernon Gray and other council members listened somberly last week to the results of a study showing that women in the county lag behind men economically and socially, but when they run for political office, they usually win.

Gray remained poker-faced as Ellicott City Republican Christopher J. Merdon joked about how disturbing that news is - "since three of us have female opponents in this year's election."

When the general laughter died down, Gray spoke up.

"I've defeated three women in my career," he said, smiling as laughter resumed at the reference to the likely battle this year between Gray and Republican state Sen. Sandra B. Schrader for the District 13 Senate seat.

That battle began officially yesterday evening before a crowd of about 70 supporters and fellow officials as Gray formally announced that he is running for the state Senate seat - his goal after 20 years of representing east Columbia on the County Council.

At his announcement rally in a former bank office in Long Reach Village Center, Gray said, "We're going to run a campaign that is fun, invigorating, engaging and that touches the people."

Stressing his support for education and better health care for children and senior citizens, and promising more anti-smoking efforts, Gray said he wants a study aimed at broadening the state's tax base beyond taxes on property, sales and income.

"From Russett to River Hill, from Bacontown to Owen Brown," he said, referring to a new Anne Arundel County segment in the district, "We are going to win."

At first glance, Gray's confidence seems well-placed.

The newly redrawn district, covering southeastern Howard and a strip of western Anne Arundel County, contains just over 50 percent registered Democrats to about 31 percent registered Republicans, and the black population in that part of Howard County has doubled since 1990, state redistricting information shows. In addition, most of District 13 is within Gray's County Council base.

Gray, who is African-American, said the black population of the new district is 23 percent, but that, he said, would not define his campaign.

"I am going to run a good race and address issues, regardless of color, gender or race," Gray said. "The concerns that African-Americans have in Howard County aren't much different than anyone else's," he said.

Despite the factors in his favor, Gray said, "I don't take anything for granted. You have to go out there and let people know what you have done."

Schrader, who was appointed to the state Senate in January, when Sen. Martin G. Madden resigned, says she has just as good a chance of keeping the seat as Gray does of winning it.

Madden, she noted, is a Republican who won a House of Delegates seat in 1990 and then two state Senate elections. The new portion of the district in Arundel "is uncharted waters for any Howard official."

Schrader has built-in name recognition in Howard because her husband, Dennis, served one term (1994-1998) on the County Council and ran for county executive in 1998.

Still, Neil Quinter, Columbia Democratic Club president and likely House of Delegates candidate in District 13, points out that Madden has been the area's only successful Republican.

"Vernon's won [many] elections. Sandy Schrader has won none," he said.

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