Ulman close to a run for executive, several say

Political notebook

November 13, 2005|By LARRY CARSON

County Councilman Ken Ulman has all but declared he is running for county executive next year, according to elected officials who attended a private Democratic Party meeting and at least one potential candidate eager to run for his council seat.

The 31-year old west Columbia Democrat told other Democrats that he was "90 percent decided" to run weeks ago, after council Chairman Guy Guzzone decided against making a run for executive, and since has moved closer to announcing his candidacy, according to County Executive James N. Robey and others present.

"It was just a good meeting to talk about plans for everyone to get on the same page," Ulman said about the session Nov. 3 at party headquarters on Oakland Mills Road. Robey called the meeting, and only elected Democrats and party Chairwoman Wendy Fiedler were invited, participants said.

Robey said he wanted everyone to exchange information on their election-year plans, minimize conflicts and find ways to project a more organized party image.

County Republicans have avoided inter-party squabbles and potential primary fights and are actively campaigning as a unified team.

Ellicott City Republican Councilman Christopher J. Merdon, 34, is unopposed in seeking his party's nomination for county executive.

The picture for Democrats is very different, though they criticize GOP efforts as too much too soon.

Courtney Watson, the school board chairman, another Democrat considering a race for county executive, was not invited to the party meeting, Robey said, because her office is nonpartisan. Watson has said she will not publicly talk about her political plans until next month, when her term as school board chairman ends.

But if she should decide to run, Democrats risk a bruising primary while Merdon campaigns unopposed. Independent Democrat Harry Dunbar is running for the Democratic nomination for executive on a slow-growth platform.

Meanwhile, four elected Democrats - three incumbents and Guzzone - are vying for three District 13 seats in the House of Delegates.

Democratic candidates have yet to emerge for two open County Council seats in Merdon's Ellicott City-Elkridge district, and in the western county, where incumbent Charles C. Feaga is term-limited.

The dominos could continue to tumble. If Ulman decides to run for executive, Joshua Feldmark, the Columbia Association board chairman, says he plans to run for Ulman's council seat.

Feldmark could face opposition from school board member Mary Kay Sigaty, who lost to Ulman by 36 votes in the 2002 primary. Sigaty said she is "seriously considering" the run, but will not commit until Ulman makes his move.

Waving Republicans

While Democrats worked on their plans, Republicans lined up along Broken Land Parkway on Monday, waving at motorists from behind large signs and taking pictures of themselves as dawn broke.

"We want to show a unified front," said Merdon, who organized the effort.

Nine GOP candidates and Maryland Homeland Security Secretary Dennis R. Schrader, who was campaigning for his wife, state Sen. Sandra B. Schrader, lined the sidewalk, first at Broken Land and Little Patuxent Parkway, and later at Broken Land and Steven's Forest Road.

State Sen. Allan H. Kittleman and Del. Gail H. Bates, who represent the western county, came for the show of party unity, they said.

"It's Team Howard County," Bates said. "I think it's exciting for us."

Three new Republican candidates appeared, including Tom D'Asto, 39, a Clarksville mechanical engineer hoping to win the District 4 County Council seat held by Ulman.

Also waving were the Rev. Rick Bowers, 47, chairman of Defend Maryland Marriage and pastor of the Living Stone House of Worship in Pasadena, and Loretta Gaffney, 49, of Glenelg, an aide to Bates.

Gaffney and Bowers complete a three-candidate District 13 delegate slate headed by Mary Beth Tung of Clarksville, who is running for the second time. Gaffney's husband, Neil, is deputy director of Howard's housing department. The three seats now are held by Democrats, Frank S. Turner, Shane E. Pendergrass and Neil F. Quinter.

Other Republicans waving signs were County Council candidates Tony Salazar (District 1), Donna Thewes (District 3) and Greg Fox (District 5).

Later in the week, Tung also got help from Maryland first lady Kendel Ehrlich and former Gov. Marvin Mandel, who attended a Tung fundraiser at Owen Brown Interfaith Center on Wednesday evening .

Fiedler wasn't impressed.

"We're the ones picking up seats every cycle. They have not," she said.

Since 1998, the Democrats have held the county executive's job, and three of the five County Council seats, adding state's attorney in 2002.

Democrats also hold six of Howard's eight House of Delegates seats and one of the three state Senate seats. And Robey is expected soon to announce his candidacy for Schrader's state Senate seat.

"For sign-waving, I think it's very early. People aren't going to remember who was out waving signs this early," Fiedler said. "They're working on their timetable. We're working on our own."

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