GOP commissioner hopeful favors frankness

Glib answers won't solve problems, Brauning says

Carroll County

August 23, 2002|By Childs Walker | Childs Walker,SUN STAFF

When asked a complicated question, David L. Brauning often says he can't provide a quick response, or that he doesn't have enough information to answer at all.

This approach doesn't always play well in politics, a field in which candidates are expected to answer any spur-of-the-moment query definitively. But Brauning, one of 10 Republicans running for Carroll County commissioner, doesn't care. He will never be glib at the expense of the truth, he said, and if finding the right answer takes a bit longer, so be it.

"You can't just run around saying you're going to do this and that, because all you're doing is opening yourself up to mistakes later on when you can't do what you said you were going to do," he said at his Finksburg insurance office.

Brauning, 65, is staking his candidacy on residents' appreciation for such frankness. It seems to be working because Brauning has raised more money than all but one other challenger and is described as a favorite in the GOP primary by many political observers. He has support from hundreds of people he has met over the years as a dairy farmer and insurance agent in South Carroll.

Mentioned for years as a possible candidate for commissioner or the state legislature, Brauning said he entered the race this year because so many people told him he could be the problem solver the county needs.

"When I look for reasons to support a candidate, I start with integrity as being the most important consideration, and then I look for evenhandedness and genuine conservative values," said Westminster lawyer Charles Hollman, who gave $250 to the campaign. "Those things certainly apply to Dave, and the more I've gotten to know him, the more I respect him."

Fellow conservative candidates offered similar praise.

"He has a good, clean sense of judgment, and he'll listen to you," said incumbent Commissioner Donald I. Dell, who has known Brauning for years. "He makes decisions based on facts, not emotions."

Despite the kind words from established figures such as Dell, one of three Republican incumbents running for re-election as commissioners, Brauning has never seemed afraid to turn his honest tongue on county officials. As a planning commission member, he often scolds staffers when asked to make a decision without having been provided with background information. County departments must do better at sharing information with each other, Carroll's eight municipal governments and the school board, he said.

"Too often, it seems the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing, and sometimes, the fingers don't even seem to know what each other are doing," Brauning said.

He is as pure a Carroll County resident as can be. He has lived in two houses in his life - both in Finksburg - the farmhouse where he was born and raised and his current house, which he bought in the late 1950s after earning his insurance license at age 19. He got his first taste of politics in 1962 when he ran his father's successful campaign for county commissioner. Horace Brauning served only one term, but those four years provided many lessons David Brauning remembers today.

"He always said that there's good in everybody, and you have to work to bring out people's best sides," Brauning recalled.

Already connected to many longtime Carroll families through farming or his father, Brauning extended his network in the 1970s and 1980s, serving on business and recreational boards and as a county park commissioner. Mention a well-known Carroll figure, and Brauning probably has a connection. He has known incumbent Commissioners Dell and Julia Walsh Gouge since he was a youngster and first met incumbent Robin Bartlett Frazier when she was a child.

Like fellow candidate Perry Jones, Brauning only recently joined the Republican Party. His family always voted Democratic, and he said he stayed with the party long past the time he felt comfortable with its politics because he had a lingering feeling that Democrats represented common working people. That no longer seems true, he said.

Brauning also wondered if he could win as a Democrat. The primary battle probably would have been easier on the Democratic side, but Brauning said his private survey found that many county voters wouldn't support any Democrat. About 60 percent of Carroll's registered voters are Republican.

His new party has embraced him. Frazier and Dell attended his candidate announcement with a cross section of the county's Republican elite, including Ed Primoff, another commissioner candidate.

"He's kind of like family," Dell said. "He has a good, traditional Carroll County philosophy."

Some critics of the government say Brauning offers little promise of reform.

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