Zimmer finds allies in run for county commissioner


Of the dozen guests attending a recent lunch fundraiser for Carroll County commissioner candidate Michael D. Zimmer, two were from Carroll County's all-Republican delegation to Annapolis: State Sens. Larry E. Haines and Allan H. Kittleman.

In a county where the three moderate Republican commissioners are often feuding with their more conservative state legislators, that's unusual.

In fact, Zimmer, 42, is the only Carroll commissioner candidate endorsed by Haines, a four-term incumbent and real estate agent who frequently butts heads with the current commissioners on issues of taxes and growth.

In an election year in which residents have voiced dissatisfaction with the Annapolis delegation, Zimmer is the only GOP candidate who is directly aligning himself with them. He's also expressed the most animosity for the current commissioners, slow-growth moderates who ousted two more conservative commissioners in 2002.

FOR THE RECORD - An article in the Aug. 13 Carroll section incorrectly described the South Carroll Republican Club.
The organization has never endorsed any position on growth in the county, according to April Rose, the club's president.
The Sun regrets the error.

"I'm sensing a new breeze blowing in Maryland for the conservative Republican party," Zimmer, a favorite of the pro-growth South Carroll Republican Club, told his small cluster of supporters Thursday. The commissioners "need to be sent home, in a clean sweep. These folks, I think, they have a lust for taxes," he said.

Lowering taxes is a priority for Zimmer, an Eldersburg resident who practices law in Mount Airy. That will bring economic development, he says, but he has yet to articulate a plan for attracting a broader industrial base or how to manage growth and school construction in the county.

Zimmer's negative attack campaign against South Carroll Del. Susan W. Krebs backfired in 2002. In that Republican primary, he finished fourth out of six for the District 9B seat, which Krebs won. It's a strategy that might not win over voters, one local politics expert said.

"Carroll Countians seek that moderate, conservative, practical approach that is positive," said Herbert C. Smith, a political science professor at McDaniel College. Negative campaigning "has to be based on substance and fact for it to be effective. Generalized negative complaints are rarely effective," he said.

People are generally satisfied with the current commissioners, who understand South Carroll's needs better than Zimmer, Krebs said. "He never talks about the issues; all he does is criticize other people," said Krebs, the incumbent Republican candidate in District 9B. "People here want answers. They don't buy the rhetoric."

In addition to taxes, Zimmer focuses on conservative moral issues. He's a board member of Marriage Savers of Carroll County, a Christian organization that promotes traditional marriage. His strong pro-life stance on abortion attracts the support of the South Carroll Republican Club, said the club's president, April Rose.

Haines and Rose, both real estate agents, praise Zimmer's opposition to a county transfer tax -- a fee paid when a new home is sold. The current commissioners have lobbied for years that such a tax would have new residents help pay for future schools, parks and roads.

"Anytime you open up an entirely new tax category, I'm going to be against it," said Rose, who also sits on the county's Republican Central Committee. "It always starts at 1 percent and never stays there."

Zimmer's campaign site (www.voteforzimmer.org) proudly displays photos with Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Lt. Gov. Michael Steele. But Ehrlich isn't endorsing any Carroll commissioner candidates, his campaign staff members said.

"Many candidates out there challenging incumbents have pictures with the governor on their Web sites," said John Kane, the state GOP chair. "That's certainly not a sign of endorsement."

Zimmer has planted 100 yard signs in the county, recycled from his 2002 House of Delegates campaign, he said. They're primarily in Eldersburg with a sprinkling in Mount Airy, compared with the three incumbent commissioners' signs, which are often clustered together and scattered near roadsides throughout the county.

Though they were pitted against each other in the District 9B delegate race four years ago, Zimmer and Larry Helminiak are allies this year. Their ads appear together on the right side of the conservative Carroll Standard's Web site.

Helminiak is running against Krebs this year.

"In the last race there were five conservative candidates basically saying the same things, and one nonconservative (Krebs) ," said Helminiak, who like many Carroll Republicans, was once a Democrat.

"There's very little different in our approach to government," he said of Zimmer.

Republican Del. Tanya T. Shewell and C. Eric Bouchat, a GOP candidate for commissioner, and Circuit Court Judge Thomas F. Stansfield have also contributed to Zimmer's campaign, according to the state records.

With his close ties to Annapolis, Zimmer says he would eliminate county positions, such as legislative liaisons and the county's office of public information. But many residents praise the spirit of transparency the current board has brought to the county.

Zimmer said such offices are a waste of money.

"I will communicate directly with the delegation," he said at a candidate's forum in Sykesville. "I don't need layers of staff to do that for me."


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