First Democrat enters race

Columbia man who opposed development to run for county executive


The Democrats have their first announced candidate for Howard County executive, but his name is not exactly a household word.

Harry M. Dunbar, 61, of Columbia, a retired federal employee and critic of development who has participated in Democratic and Republican campaign events, said he will run a "grass-roots independent Democratic campaign," next year for the county's top job.

"Howard County needs a county executive who knows how to say `no' to developers," said Dunbar, who in 2002 worked for Republican county executive candidate Steven H. Adler.

Dunbar favors a county purchase of land behind Merriweather Post Pavilion for a park rather than allow General Growth to develop it, and he's generally for slower growth to stop school crowding and traffic congestion.

Now a real estate agent, Dunbar ran for County Council in 1986 as an independent and received 9 percent of the vote, which he said was a learning experience. Voters, he said, don't vote for independents, which is why he's running as a Democrat this time.

Some Democrats were skeptical of Dunbar's chances.

"He almost does things for shock value," said C. Vernon Gray, the five-term former county councilman who defeated Dunbar two decades ago.

"No one knows where he's coming from, ever," said County Council Chairman Guy Guzzone, a North Laurel-Savage Democrat who has said he will not run for county executive. "He runs around with Republican T-shirts on and says he's a Democrat." Said West Columbia Democrat Ken Ulman, a possible candidate for county executive: "I can say confidently that makes absolutely no difference in my decision-making process."

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