Schrader sways some Democrats

Facing Gray, Republican eyeing more crossovers

October 24, 2002|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Harry Brodie joked that he is the kind of Democrat who "felt like I had to take a shower" after leaving a Republican Party campaign office in Columbia recently.

But he is adamantly against the big Maple Lawn Farms development planned near his Fulton home, not to mention two others nearby, and he is backing Republican Sandra B. Schrader for state Senate - not Democrat C. Vernon Gray.

Voters like Brodie are vital to Schrader's bid to win election as the new District 13 state senator, because there are 10,533 more registered Democrats than Republicans in the southeastern county district, which also has 11,000 independent voters.

How many of them she can attract is an open question.

Which is why Schrader presented a half-dozen Democratic supporters in public this week, comforting them in a campaign volunteer's living room by saying that she too, years ago in upstate New York, was a Democrat. Former state Sen. Thomas M. Yeager and anti-development activist Susan Gray - both Democrats - are also backing Schrader, but they did not attend the gathering.

C. Vernon Gray and Democratic leaders scoffed at her efforts.

"It's insignificant," Gray said. "I've had Republicans with me all along. I'm endorsed by the Farm Bureau," he said, as an example of a conservative group with many Republican members.

"It's what they [Republicans] have to do. They have to look for it [support] wherever they can," said Wendy Fiedler, chairwoman of Howard's Democratic central committee. "There's no Democrat in that group that's a strong Democrat."

Still, with Republican gubernatorial candidate Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. seemingly popular in Howard County, and District 13 more competitive for Republicans after the Court of Appeals redistricting order moved the lines entirely within Howard, the election's outcome is far from certain.

"This was to make a statement to let folks know there is a group out there supporting me - even though they're a handful [of people]," said Schrader, who was appointed to the state senator's seat in January when Martin G. Madden resigned. She claimed that more Democrats silently support her.

The three District 13 delegates seats are being sought by Democratic incumbents Frank S. Turner and Shane Pendergrass and Democratic primary winner Neil F. Quinter.

Republican delegate candidates Bob Adams and Mary Beth Tung are running with Schrader, while John Stafford, who lives in a North Laurel hotel, is running on his own.

Brodie, a former president of the Greater Beaufort Park Citizens Association, exemplifies yet another political danger for Gray, a 20-year county councilman - the risk that numerous controversial decisions over time may have upset enough people to hurt him now.

"One effect can be that it is cumulative. The result is that at some point, more people are mad at you than happy with you and you lose an election. Another is that it's not cumulative and it doesn't matter," said Donald F. Norris, a professor of policy science at University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He pointed to Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes as an example of the latter and Baltimore County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, now a candidate for Congress in a tight race with former Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, as a possible example of the former.

Gray has clearly angered some Howard voters along the way.

"Vernon is so partisan. He hasn't served residents - he's served the Democratic Party," said Cathi Higgins, a Democrat who is outgoing president of the Wheatfield Homeowners Association in Ellicott City - which is outside District 13.

"I'm not happy with Mr. Gray," Brodie said, adding that he likes Schrader's moderate Republican style and her support from environmentalists.

Valerie McGuire, a District 12 resident who held the Democrats-for-Schrader gathering, said she is a Democrat who volunteered to work in the Schrader campaign because she is impressed with Schrader's approach to public service - and she still resents Gray's role in the 1990s controversy over the path for Route 100, which runs near her Hunt Country Estates home off Route 103.

"In fact, I'm not in Sandy's district, but that shouldn't matter," she said, because state senators vote on bills that affect everyone in Maryland. When she went to Annapolis last winter to check on a home child-care bill that would affect her day care business, she was impressed with Schrader's interest in her issue, she said.

Gray, too, has boosters beyond his core supporters, like the Howard County Black Clergy, a group of ministers who renewed their endorsement of him this week.

Wayne Newsome, a Republican builder, is backing Gray, with whom he has worked closely for years, he said, on affordable housing projects along U.S. 1.

A general partner in Village Builders and developer of the New Colony Village manufactured home project in Jessup, Newsome said Gray "supports the business community" and will work with anyone of whatever party.

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