Voters defeat conservative county board

Republicans Frazier, Dell lose to Minnich, Jones, and incumbent Gouge

`This is my referendum'

Residents seen fearful of unmanaged growth, seeking moderate leaders

Carroll County

Election 2002

September 11, 2002|By Childs Walker | Childs Walker,SUN STAFF

Showing they want more moderate county leadership, Carroll Republicans voted out conservative county commissioners Robin Bartlett Frazier and Donald I. Dell and nominated a slate of three candidates led by former newspaper editor and columnist Dean L. Minnich.

Minnich led a group of winners that included three-term incumbent Julia Walsh Gouge and Union Bridge Mayor Perry L. Jones, one of the only black elected officials in county history.

With all votes counted except 1,042 absentee ballots, Minnich led with 9,446 votes. Gouge was second with 9,031 votes, and Jones was third with 6,432 votes. Frazier finished sixth and Dell seventh in the 10-candidate field. Both trailed Minnich by more than 5,000 votes.

Minnich and his supporters were among the 200 Carroll Republicans gathered last night at Wilhelm Ltd. Catering in Westminster.

"This is my referendum, that a nonpolitical ordinary guy can make it," said Minnich, who first covered the county as a reporter more than 30 years ago. "People went to the polls saying, `I know this guy and I trust him.'"

Gouge said she was happy to avoid the voters' apparent distaste for the incumbents.

"That's always a concern, but if people feel you represent them, they'll still be willing to work with you," she said last night at Wilhelm's. "I'm glad I was seen as the voice of reason."

Jones, a former Democrat who switched his party affiliation earlier this year, anxiously watched as numbers came in showing that he was on his way to earning a spot as his party's third nominee.

"Voters aren't satisfied with what's happening," he said.

Frazier tried to put her defeat into perspective.

"The Lord has other plans for me," she said. "This is preparation for what's next."

Ed Primoff, a Woodbine activist, was running fourth and planning commission member David L. Brauning was fifth in the Republican contest.

"It looks like Republicans are looking for a change in leadership," said Robert M. Wolfing, chairman of the county's Republican State Central Committee.

Three Democratic candidates for commissioner, Neil Ridgely, Jeannie Nichols and Betty Smith faced an uncontested primary and will square off with the three Republicans and independent Vince DePalmer in the Nov. 5 general election.

Of last night's results in the GOP race, Ridgely said, "It looks like goodbye good old boys."

Republicans outnumber Democrats by about 10,000 among Carroll's 85,000 registered voters, and the party has swept the last three commissioner elections. Turnout yesterday was about 32 percent, officials said.

Debate leading up to the primary focused on residential growth and the commissioners' often contentious relationship with state leaders. Many county residents, especially those in South Carroll, accused incumbents Dell and Frazier of allowing growth to overwhelm the county's schools, roads and water capacities.

Dell and Frazier also faced criticism for supporting construction of a water treatment plant at Piney Run Park, a project they say would meet South Carroll's water needs. Residents say the plant would ruin recreation at the park, and state environmental officials say it would prompt unwanted development.

Some Republicans said they did not vote for Dell or Frazier yesterday because they doubted the incumbents' ability to manage growth.

"Get rid of them," said Paul Whitehurst, 80, of Westminster. "Sure, they're dyed-in-the wool Carroll Countians, but they can't break from tradition, even if they know it stinks."

Whitehurst had just voted at Mechanicsville Elementary in Sykesville, but the only candidate he remembered selecting was Gouge.

Others noted Piney Run as a major issue.

"It's all about the water," said Bob Jenkins, 30, and an Eldersburg resident who said he is worried about Piney Run.

Jenkins said he voted for Gouge but said Dell and Frazier had to go.

Yesterday's primary also narrowed the school board candidate field from seven to six. Jerry L. Brunst, a self-employed landscaper who home-schools his children outside Westminster, was knocked out of the nonpartisan race for three seats on the five-member board. Longtime parent activist Laura K. Rhodes of Taylorsville led the field with 13,015 votes, with 44 of 47 precincts tallied. Incumbents Gary W. Bauer,, and C. Scott Stone, both of Hampstead, followed with 11,259 and 10,539 votes, respectively.

Others advancing to the general election are: James E. Reter of Westminster, an accountant and the former comptroller of Carroll schools; John F. Murray Jr. of Mount Airy; and William M. Bowen Jr., a retired Baltimore social studies teacher and one-term Harford County councilman from Westminster.

In the courthouse races, Paul G. Zimmerman, 48, of Westminster was on his way to winning the Republican party's nomination for register of wills. Zimmerman, a former assistant county attorney in Carroll, now holds the same post in Frederick County. It was the first time in more than three decades that the incumbent register of wills had not sought re-election. He will face Democrat John Lockard Barnes, who ran unopposed, in the general election.

Dorothy V. "Dottie" Utz, John David Carbaugh and Herbert J. Reisig Sr. were leading the Republican primaries for judge of the orphans' court. They will face Democrat George E. Maloney in the general election.

Sun staff writers Athima Chansanchai, Sheridan Lyons and Jennifer McMenamin contributed to this article.

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