Ulman promotes his 'conservative management'

March 28, 2010|By Larry Carson

It's a rare political fundraiser where the candidate reads quotes from New York bond rating agencies to stir the crowd, but Howard County Executive Ken Ulman wanted his supporters to hear phrases like "conservative management" at his Wednesday night event in Clarksville.

His message to the hundreds of supporters at Ten Oaks Ballroom was essentially what he's been saying publicly for months - that despite the recession's woes, Howard County is a safe, prosperous, well-managed place to live with excellent schools and bright prospects. The unspoken question he poses this election year, of course, is why change political horses in midstream?

Speaking on his father Louis' 64th birthday and the day before his and wife Jaki's 10th wedding anniversary, a relaxed-looking Ulman tried to convey a sense of celebration. The Democratic incumbent never mentioned his bid for re-election to a second four-year term, nor his Republican opponent, Republican Trent Kittleman, whom Louis Ulman had seen waving signs only that morning on Route 108 at Columbia Road.

"Thank you for investing in us and what we're trying to accomplish in this county," the executive told a crowd estimated at about 400 people at the $100-per-ticket event. He and and his wife then led a rendition of "Happy Birthday" to his dad, who stood watching. The executive's theme was to make the case that despite the recession, he's hired more police, created police units for domestic violence and repeat offenders, and kept public schools at top performance levels.

"That doesn't happen by accident. It happens because we make choices," he said. "We're positioning ourselves to come roaring out of this recession over the next year."

Kittleman said Thursday that although the county's AAA bond rating is great, and federal and state governments spend more than the county does, "we have got to get out of that [spending] mentality." With huge liabilities looming for retiree health care and the possibility growing that the county will have to begin paying for a growing part of teacher pensions, Howard County is facing major fiscal challenges. Even the $24,000 in confiscated drug money Ulman used to help all 12 county high schools pay for after-prom parties is indicative of the impulse to spend, she said.

"We just can't afford it," she said. If things don't change, "we're going to lose our quality of life."

Election maneuvering
Common wisdom has Republicans riding to election victories this year on a wave of popular unrest over government spending, job losses and the recession, but two Howard County candidates are working off a different script.

In General Assembly District 9A covering the western county and Ellicott City, where voters have elected Republicans for decades, Democrat Jon Weinstein is attracting support from party leaders who scoff at talk of a GOP resurgence.

In west Columbia's single-member District 12B, former county Republican Party Vice Chairman John W. Bailey IV said he's switching to become a Democrat as he runs against Del. Elizabeth Bobo, a four-term incumbent Democrat and former Howard County executive.

At a March 20 fundraiser at the Glenelg home of Dr. Martin Wasserman, the state's former health secretary, and his wife, Dr. Barbara Wasserman, Weinstein was feted by Maryland Democratic Party Chairwoman Susan Turnbull, Ulman, state Sen. James N. Robey, Bobo and Del. Guy Guzzone.

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, a Democrat who also represents the area, had also been scheduled to appear but was stuck in Washington as the vote on national health care reform neared, Weinstein said.

Weinstein, who characterizes himself as a pragmatic moderate interested in progress, said he's not interested in partisan bickering. While Republican Scott Brown's Senate victory in Massachusetts was seen as a GOP triumph in Democratic territory, Weinstein sees it as "a huge independent victory." Those are the kinds of voters he wants to appeal to, he said. He paints incumbent Dels. Gail H. Bates and Warren E. Miller, both Republicans, as obstructionist and too ideologically conservative.

Ulman made his feelings clear.

"I am tired of this notion that this is going to be a good Republican year. Not in Maryland, and not in Howard County."

Guzzone agreed, saying that Bates' and Miller's values "are a little bit out of line with Howard County and this district."

Robey built on those comments.

"Gail and Warren are two really nice people. They really care about people, but they are so far off the mark" on issues, Robey told the crowd of about 35 people. "Their heads are in the sand," he said, and Weinstein could win. "This is not a Republican fortress. There are a lot of Democrats and independents out here." He called "hogwash" the idea that Republicans are sure bets Nov. 2.

Bates and Miller strongly disagreed.

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