Robey backs Ken Ulman for council

Primary endorsement in the District 4 race risks Democratic split

`He opened a lot of doors for me'

Retiring councilwoman, other candidate express surprise with executive

Howard County

August 21, 2002|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Howard County Executive James N. Robey has endorsed Ken Ulman in the hotly contested District 4 County Council primary race - risking a potential split among Democrats that could ultimately help Republicans.

"I was very surprised and very disappointed that a Democratic candidate for executive would endorse in a council Democratic primary," said retiring District 4 Councilwoman Mary C. Lorsung, a west Columbia Democrat.

Lorsung, who is backing Mary Kay Sigaty, Ulman's opponent, said Robey "has seriously misjudged the needs of his constituency in District 4."

Ulman was ecstatic about Robey's announcement, made at the council candidate's $50-a-ticket fund-raiser Monday evening at a restaurant behind The Mall in Columbia. The young lawyer has been piling up campaign money and endorsements, building an apparent advantage over Sigaty.

"I wasn't really expecting it; I was pretty excited about it," Ulman said, adding that Robey's "fairly impassioned" tone made a big impression. "I was pumped."

Sigaty also was surprised, she said. "I talked to Jim early on," she said. "He told me he wasn't going to be taking a position. He felt his job was to help all the [Democratic] candidates."

Robey said he never told Sigaty that, and had been thinking about endorsing Ulman for the past month.

"I've had a good relationship with Ken over the last four years," Robey said. "When I first ran, he said he wanted to help. He opened a lot of doors for me" in Annapolis.

Ulman worked on Gov. Parris N. Glendening's re-election campaign and as director of the state Board of Public Works, which dispenses state funds.

Robey said he wants "someone on the council I think shares my views and I'll be able to vote with."

"The odds are very good that he will win the primary and the general [election]," the executive said.

But his move could risk the 3-2 Democratic dominance on the five-member council.

The endorsement might help Ulman in the west Columbia district where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1, but it also could push some Democrats toward Republican Joan Lancos if Sigaty loses the primary Sept. 10.

That's because Sigaty, 52, a community worker, and Lancos, 48, a former Planning Board chairwoman, share qualities such as gender, age, and long community involvement.

Ulman, 28, a lawyer in his father's law firm, grew up and lives in Columbia, and has a more political background.

He is Howard County coordinator for Kathleen Kennedy Townsend's gubernatorial campaign. His father, Louis Ulman, is a partner in Hodes, Ulman, Pessin and Katz, and was appointed by Glendening in May last year to head the Maryland Racing Commission.

Robey "seems to have ignored the qualities which Mary Kay and Joan Lancos bring to the campaign," Lorsung said yesterday.

Ulman has won endorsements from county police, fire and regional AFL-CIO unions, and in the past week, added the local Sierra Club chapter and African Americans in Howard County, one of several African-American groups in the county.

Whatever happens in the District 4 primary, county Democratic Party Chairwoman Wendy Fiedler said, "I hope they all can see the bigger picture. We don't want to cut off our nose to spite our face."

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