Principal to seek spot in race for executive

Political Notebook

May 28, 2006|By LARRY CARSON

Harper's Choice Middle School Principal C. Stephen Wallis says he wants to be the fourth candidate for Howard County executive this year.

The 56-year-old educator, who lives in Ellicott City with his wife, Elaine, said he wants to run as an independent, meaning that he must gather about 2,000 signatures from registered voters in the county by Aug. 7, said Betty Nordaas, the county election board administrator. If Wallis is successful, he would bypass the September primaries and his name would appear in November with the Democratic and Republican nominees.

County Council Chairman Christopher J. Merdon is the only Republican candidate. Councilman Ken Ulman, a west Columbia Democrat, and Harry Dunbar are competing for the Democratic nomination.

"I've always held a high regard for the notion of public service," Wallis said.

Given the public's distaste for partisan bickering between Democrats and Republicans, he said he believes that his lack of baggage will attract supporters.

Wallis said has a core of 20 to 30 exploratory-committee members who will hit the streets looking for signatures, which he predicted he can get easily.

"It's quintessential grass-roots" campaigning, he said. "This is not going to be about big money or big-party rhetoric."

Wallis said he mainly is interested in public safety, schools, adequate housing and managed growth, though he has no concrete action he wants to take if he wins.

"It's a long shot," he said. "I think it's important work."

Political rhetoric

Big-party rhetoric was on display Wednesday night at the annual Jefferson-Jackson Day Democratic dinner at Ten Oaks Ballroom in Clarksville, aided by a flood of campaign signs that blanketed the edge of Route 108 outside the hall and the presence of candidates for every seat, from U.S. Senate to Orphan's Court judge.

With the featured speaker, retiring U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, in Washington and unable to attend, his wife, Christine, took over with a verbal assault on Republican policies and attitudes - but not before outgoing County Executive James N. Robey, a candidate for state Senate, got in his licks at Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

"We will not hire people who pride themselves on being the doctor of doom or an ice skater," he said, referring to a couple of the Ehrlich administration's hires.

Christine Sarbanes talked just as tough, although she stuck to domestic issues and avoided mentioning Iraq.

"This is not a conservative administration, this is a radical administration trying to change our society," she said about President Bush. "They listen to no one. These are people driven by ideology, and that's not the American way."

She said deficits run up by free-spending Republicans will reduce the standard of living for future generations.

Two dividing events

A pair of recent campaign events further highlight the political divide between Democrats and Republicans in Howard County.

On Monday night at a Kings Contrivance restaurant, Democratic Del. Frank S. Turner attracted House Speaker Michael E. Busch for his fundraiser, which stressed the "Team 13" Democratic ticket made up of Turner, Del. Shane E. Pendergrass, and County Councilman Guy Guzzone running for District 13's three delegate seats along with Robey's quest to be the district's state senator.

Del. Neil F. Quinter is running for re-election on his own.

Turner said that after 12 years in the General Assembly, he has two primary goals this year - to serve again with a Democrat as governor and to see Robey elected to give the Howard delegation's three senators a majority of Democrats.

"We need Jim in there to get local legislation passed," he said.

Republican Sens. Sandra B. Schrader and Allan H. Kittleman can control the delegation's Senate votes.

Two days earlier, at the end of a winding, wooded driveway, at the edge of a pond bordering a grassy, sun-splashed hill in West Friendship, Republicans gathered to hear a "special announcement" from Kittleman, who was the host along with his stepmother, Trent M. Kittleman, who is executive secretary of the Maryland Transportation Authority, and GOP Dels. Gail H. Bates and Warren E. Miller.

Allan Kittleman joked that his revelation involved whether he or Miller, who both wore Bermuda shorts, "has the best legs," but then formally announced that all three incumbents are running for re-election.

Melissa Ridgely Covolesky, another Republican candidate, is also seeking nomination for one of the two District 9A delegate seats.

The senator stressed the need for Republicans to gain General Assembly seats - especially in places like Howard County.

"Annapolis is a tough place to be right now [for Republicans]," he said, because the Democrats have enough votes to override any veto from Ehrlich, which they did regularly this year.

Bates joked that being a Republican legislator this term was akin to childbirth.

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