Politicians of all stripes are looking to county fair

POLITICAL NOTEBOOK

July 31, 2005|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

POLITICIANS ALWAYS see the Howard County Fair as an opportunity to meet the public, and this year's event, starting Friday night, is no exception.

Democrats and Republicans will have booths advertising their causes and candidates, and two Republicans have rented individual booths. But you won't find candidates roaming the grounds handing out literature.

"We don't allow solicitations on the midway, whether they're giving away Sunpapers or coolers," said Dick Mettee, fairgrounds general manager.

Candidates can work from their political party booths, said Vaughn Turner, president of the Howard County Fair Association. Individual booths have been rented by county executive candidate and Councilman Christopher J. Merdon of Ellicott City and State Sen. Allan H. Kittleman, who represents the western county.

Another frequent showcase for political talents - the cow-milking contest - will feature different participants this year, said Judy Iager, who runs the contest. Volunteer milkers will be squeezed from the audience for the event, at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Iager said.

Kittleman, who was raised on a farm in West Friendship, won last year's milking competition, beating Merdon and County Executive James N. Robey, a Democrat.

Restless and undecided

Steve Who?

Steven H. Adler, managing partner of Savage Mills, is feeling just a tad unappreciated by Republicans who were eager three years ago for him to run for county executive against the incumbent, Robey.

"I was out there for a year talking about Robey and growth and taxes. Robey gets elected and he does exactly what I said he would do," Adler said. He referred to the 30 percent income tax increase Robey and County Council Democrats pushed through in 2003.

"The campaign was the time to get behind that issue. Everybody knew what was going to happen," he said, frustrated that it was not until after the tax increase was approved, a half-year after the election, that public outrage erupted in the form of an unsuccessful petition campaign.

But now it is Republican Merdon who is running for county executive, and the party central committee last year passed on choosing Adler to fill a County Council vacancy.

Now, restless, he is undecided about his political future.

"There's still a pretty strong group who would like me to run for executive," Adler claimed. "I'm kind of laying back and waiting."

One choice could be a run for House of Delegates in District 13, covering the southeastern county, where all three seats are held by Democrats. One, Del. Neil F. Quinter, has announced he plans to run for Congress.

Adler is not shy about what he feels he has to offer.

"There is a side to me that says I have more maturity and total experience countywide than anybody else out there," he said.

And his political horizons have few limits, he said.

"I've actually been courted to run by both Democrats and Republicans. Why not run as a Democrat? I could be a conservative Democrat or a moderate Republican. At the end of the day, I feel like I'm an advocate for citizens," he said.

Cost-of-living raise

Howard County government employees are enjoying a 4 percent cost-of-living pay raise that appeared in their paychecks this month - a slightly higher increase than the 3 percent rise discussed as part of County Executive Robey's budget.

That is because Robey had included a 1 percent increase to begin June 30, the final day of the previous fiscal year.

For individual workers, that means that a police officer first class with a decade of experience got a $2,282 raise. A utility worker II with the same longevity got $1,020, and an administrative support technician II with 10 years of experience got $2,932.

Each 1 percent increase costs the county about $1 million a year, excluding school board employees, whose 3 percent raise is calculated separately.

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