Political notebook: Ulman can't run again, so who's next?

Term limits mean new executive in 2014

November 11, 2010|By Larry Carson, The Baltimore Sun

Newly re-elected Howard County Executive Ken Ulman is thinking about his impending second-term swearing-in Dec. 6, but since term limitations prevent him from running again, others are already thinking ahead four years.

"I think a lot of people are thinking about it, but I think it's way too early," said County Councilman Calvin Ball, an East Columbia Democrat. The field will become clearer after the 2012 presidential election, he said.

"The Republican Party needs to get organized for 2014. We need to start tomorrow," said defeated County Council candidate Dennis R. Schrader.

Four years is a long time, of course, but the same names keep coming up when the question is asked.

For the Democrats, Del. Guy Guzzone and County Council Chairwoman Courtney Watson are considered the most likely prospects. For Republicans, the suggestions are state Sen. Allen H. Kittleman, the Senate minority leader who also served on the County Council, or current Councilman Greg Fox, the only Republican on the five-member body.

Then there's Schrader, who ran for the top job once before in 1998, or Robert L. Flanagan, a four-term veteran state delegate and former Maryland secretary of transportation. Flanagan just lost a bid to push Watson off the council. Then there's this year's GOP standard-bearer and Kittleman's stepmother, Trent Kittleman. Departing Republican Party Chairwoman Joan Becker said a new face could pop up, too.

"Sure, anything is possible," said Guzzone, who seriously considered running in 2006. He agreed that Watson, who also thought about it in 2006, could try next time, but one thing is for sure, he said: There won't be a primary battle among Democrats — like the Republicans had in 1998 — that could weaken the Democratic Party. "Courtney and I have a great relationship. That would never happen," he said.

Watson was also uncertain whether she'd run for the top job. "I can't even consider that at this moment," she said just after the election, though she agreed she would not rule it out. "I have a passion for serving the people of Howard County and imagine I will continue to want to do that," Watson said later, though she's not sure in what capacity.

Allan Kittleman is the GOP's most prominent official, but he too said he hasn't decided anything. "I won't say I'm not interested," he said. "I enjoy where I am." He could choose anything from a run for executive to retirement from politics, he said.

Fox left the door open. "You never know," he said. "My wife might rule it out. Everything's on the table." In Howard, council members are limited to three terms in office, so all the current members could run again in 2014.

Schrader said, "I plan to be on the ballot in 2014," but he's not sure for what office. He won a council seat on his second try in 1994 and won that tough GOP primary battle four years later with fellow Councilman Charles C. Feaga, but lost the general election to Democratic state Sen. James N. Robey, who served two terms as executive before winning his Senate seat.

Flanagan was also a bit cagey. A four-term veteran state delegate, he did better than any other Republican this year, losing to Watson by about 1,000 votes.

"I'm going to continue to work as hard as I did in this election," he says, on the issues he feels are important. He would not speculate in what capacity, however. Trent Kittleman said 2014 is too far into the future to seriously think about right now. Now, her interest is drawn more to national issues. "I'm going to be involved one way or another," she said.

What wasn't said

The County Council campaign between incumbent Fox of Fulton and Dr. Zaneb Kahn Beams of Clarksville was a civil one, focused on issues such as health care, land use and schools. What was left unsaid is perhaps more interesting and encouraging, some say, given the state of ethnic and religious conflict worldwide.

Fox, easily re-elected to a second council term with 68 percent of the vote, is a Republican engineer who is Jewish. Beams, a liberal Democrat, is a pediatrician who grew up in a Muslim family with ethnic roots in Pakistan, though she does not practice the Islamic faith.

In Howard County, where officials and civic leaders celebrate diversity and civility, this aspect of the candidates' backgrounds drew no public attention or even speculation, which observers said is exactly how it should be.

Fox, 43, a fiscal conservative and the married father of two, said he was unaware of Beams' background or religion. "I didn't focus on that. I didn't know," he said. Many people don't realize he is Jewish, and it makes little difference, he said. "People who know, don't care." The campaign, he said, is "good, healthy. It shows it can be done without anything negative" popping up about candidates' ethnic or religious backgrounds.

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