New executive lost in '98 to Harkins, planned to run again for office next year

July 06, 2005|By Tyrone Richardson and Josh Mitchell | Tyrone Richardson and Josh Mitchell,SUN STAFF

David R. Craig followed an unusual path to the office of Harford County executive.

In 1998, Craig sought the Republican nomination for the county's top elected office. But he lost that race to James M.Harkins, the man he now replaces.

And in recent months, the Havre de Grace mayor was mounting another campaign to become county executive, drumming up support and raising about $100,000 for next year's election. He had planned to retire from his job as assistant principal at Southampton Middle School to concentrate on the election.

Now he has the $90,000- a-year county executive job 16 months early and without a campaign.

Supporters see the longtime educator's experiences and personality as a good fit for his new post.

"I think he does a great job of building consensus with the other members of the governmental body that he works with," said Lee Merrell, a county school board member and a past member of the Republican Central Committee of Harford County.

'Pays attention "He is so friendly to everybody and so attentive when he talks to them," Merrell said. "He really pays attention when everybody talks to him."

County Councilman Richard C. Slutzky, a Republican, fended off concerns voiced by critics that Craig is overly pro-development, based in part on the sources of some of his campaign contributions.

"I'm not sure that's fair to say to David Craig," Slutzky said. "He'll have to prove himself on his own merits and not someone checking the list of his contributions."

"I've been interested in politics since 1956," Craig said last night. "I remember sitting with my grandmother when I was 7 and watching the 1956 National Republican Convention. I thought if she thinks politics is important, it must be."

The Havre de Grace native also persevered amid assertions by some candidates that the winner of last night's vote should adopt a "caretaker" role, and not seek election to the post next year.

Snodgrass' view

Lucie L. Snodgrass, a Democrat who served in the Harkins administration, said she believes that the candidates considered by voters in the election should not include an incumbent chosen by the council.

"If Mr. Craig or anyone indeed wants to run for the office of county executive, then he or she should do so on the same playing field as anyone else," Snodgrass said recently.

Becoming the new county executive is the zenith of a political career of more than 25 years.

Craig, 56, won election to the Havre de Grace City Council in 1979 and was re-elected in 1981 and 1983. Craig served as council president in 1982.

Mayoral elections

He was elected mayor in 1985, 1987 and 2001, the last a surprising victory when he handily defeated incumbent Philip J. Barker.

Craig also served in state government. He was elected to the House of Delegates in 1990 and served until 1995 and was elected a state senator in 1994, serving to 1999.

In addition to his political service, Craig, who is married and the father of three adult children, has spent three decades working in the county school system.

He taught history and government at Edgewood, Havre de Grace, and Magnolia middle schools for 15 years, and was an assistant principal at Magnolia, Aberdeen, and Southampton middle schools for the past 15 years.

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