Council Chairman Guzzone pondering his options


July 10, 2005|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

COUNTY COUNCIL Chairman Guy Guzzone's name is often mentioned as the most likely Democratic candidate for county executive next year, but don't jump to any conclusions.

The lanky father of three says he has not decided what to run for, or whether to run at all.

"When I decide, I'll announce," Guzzone said last week. "Here are my options - county executive, state Senate, House of Delegates, County Council, or nothing."

Guzzone, a North Laurel-Savage Democrat in his second council term, said he is pondering personal and professional considerations, noting that there are 16 more months before the November 2006 election.

"I continue to be convinced that the best thing to do is to do my job and not spend more time than necessary trying to get the next job," he said, which can be a problem with politicians. "It seems a little early," to commit to a race, he added - a thinly veiled slap at Republican Christopher J. Merdon, another two-term councilman who is actively campaigning for the executive's job.

Merdon, an Ellicott City resident and father of two, said he can do multiple tasks well - like Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley and Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, both Democrats angling for their party's gubernatorial nomination while running large local governments.

"He doesn't have that quality. I do," Merdon said about Guzzone.

Besides, Merdon said, running countywide is a huge undertaking. "Take a look at the amount of geography we have to cover and the amount of people to get to," he said.

Though Merdon started two years before his first election to the council in 1998, he knocked on only about 7,000 doors in one council district, he said.

Knocking on doors is more valuable than paid advertising or mailings, Merdon said, "because you're getting direct feedback."

Merdon and a corps of supporters are regularly waving big blue "Merdon for County Executive" signs at motorists. He has a campaign brochure printed and a Web site in the works, he said.

Guzzone said he has been as aggressive a campaigner as anyone in running for the council in 1998 and 2002.

"Assuming I decide to do this at some point, you can expect [the effort] will be 150 percent. That day has not come," he said.

Expense is an issue

The annual summer convention of the National Association of Counties has stirred controversy in several communities this year because of the expense of traveling to the lush location - Honolulu, Hawaii.

But as local officials from Augusta, Ga., Baton Rouge, La. and Albuquerque, N.M., defend plans to spend up to $14,000 on the trip, not a whisper of criticism has hit Howard County Executive James N. Robey, who is sandwiching the convention with a vacation for his extended family.

Robey, who went to Phoenix, Ariz., for the convention in July 2004, is going this year with his wife, two grown children and their families, as well as his chief aide, Herman Charity, and Victoria Goodman, his communications director.

But the county is paying $3,385 for all three officials.

Robey and Charity are paying their airfare, Goodman said, and the county is paying for the convention registration and hotel rooms during the event. Goodman is getting airfare and conference registration from the taxpayers, she said.

Her husband, Tom Goodman, is public affairs director for the association, which is based in Washington.

Kittleman fund-raiser

The summer heat and humidity make for lethargy in some, but state Sen. Allan H. Kittleman said he will net about $25,000 from a June 30 fund-raiser at the home of A. Nayab Siddiqui, president and chief excutive officer of Scientific Systems and Software International in Columbia.

Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele was the guest of honor - and the draw for those among the approximately 150 who attended willing to pay $250 for a less crowded portion of the event. Others paid $125.

"It went very well," the former County Council member said. Kittleman was appointed to the Senate seat last year after the death of his father, state Sen. Robert H. Kittleman. Next year, Allan Kittleman plans to seek election to a full four-year term.

Steele gave no clues about his likely U.S. Senate run next year, Kittleman said, though he spoke for 15 minutes or more about re-electing his boss, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., to a second term.

Siddiqui, who lives in a large house in Clarksville, said he agreed to host the event after meeting Kittleman several times.

"He has attended several Howard County Muslim Council events. He has been a nice public servant," Siddiqui said, adding that he helps people he likes, not just those of one political party.

Republicans and Democrats have courted the county's Muslim community, along with other minority groups, including Korean-Americans, Jews, African-Americans and Hispanics. The county's Muslim council has become more active since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, seeking more community involvement.

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