From the clothes they wear to the way they speak, from their political histories to their personal lives, 5th District County Council hopefuls Diane Evans and Linda Gilligan could not be any more different.
And, with the Nov. 6 general election just two weeks away, the race between Gilligan, an admittedly non-political Democrat, and Evans, who lives and breathes Republican ideals, could not be any closer.
"It's neck and neck," said Gretel Derby, president of the Cape St.
Claire Improvement Association. "I have no idea who's going to win this one."
The Evans-Gilligan race is hard to call for several reasons, not the least of which is the fact that neither political party has an upper hand in this district, which includes Severna Park and the Lower Broadneck Peninsula. There are 16,521 registered Democrats, 16,547 Republicans.
With its constituency of white, middle- and upper-middle-class professionals, the 5th District has a history of voting Republican. But then, it put Democrat Carole B. Baker, the outgoing councilwoman, in office for two terms.
With party strength even, the winner will be the candidate who can swing the most crossover votes -- and doing that may be more a function of style than substance. Like the county executive's race, which pits Democrat Theodore J. Sophocleus' working-class affability against Republican Robert R. Neall's buttoned-down professionalism, this contest features two vastly different styles.
Consider the contrast:
Gilligan, 38, was a working mother who five years ago quit her job as a hospital budget analyst after her youngest daughter developed health problems. She is married to Brian Gilligan, a pharmacist and younger brother of Michael F. Gilligan, who just left the council after a losing bid for county executive. They have three children, ages 13, 6 and 3.
Evans, 42, and her husband, Jeff, a demographer and economist, have a couple of cats, but no children. She's worked for the last 10 years as a domestic support officer with the Anne Arundel Circuit Court.
The Evanses live in an Arnold condominium, beautifully furnished with Queen Anne furniture.
The Gilligans live in a big two-story house in Chartwell. There are Halloween decorations on the counters and Popsicles in the freezer.
When speaking in public, Evans appears well-informed, articulate and intense; Gilligan comes off as well-informed, articulate and relaxed.
Evans has a preference for skirts, blouses with lace collars and flats; Gilligan wears high heels and dresses.
Evans has been active in GOP politics for more than 20 years and has a lengthy resume of both political and civic activities and honors. She has run for public office twice before, making a respectable showing both times.
Gilligan never was involved in politics until she announced her candidacy this year. Her civic activism consists mainly of involvement in the PTA, coaching childrens' sports, serving as a delegate to the school board nominating convention and as president of the Greater Severna Park Mothers and Toddlers Club.
"I'm a non-political type, I'm a community type," Gilligan said at an Oct. 18 forum in Severna Park. "I'm almost like Jane Doe."
Rather than downplaying her lack of political experience, Gilligan has capitalized on it. The popularity of Baker, who came from a civic rather than political background and who was known for constituent service, has not been lost on her.
"The people want to get politicians out of politics," she said. "The fact that I'm not tainted by political connections is appealing to people.
"I really don't think ideology is a factor for a candidate in a county council race," said Gilligan, who topped seven other Democrats in the primary. "It's the candidate who people think will deal with them on a day-to-day basis and who will listen on the issues. Partisan philosophy doesn't mean a whole lot. . . . I'd really like to get away from this party thing."
To Evans, a fervent disciple of GOP fiscal conservatism and laissez faire, the "party thing" is everything. She believes Gilligan is minimizing her political affiliation because Democratic economic policies have become indefensible.
"She knows the philosophy I have is not just my party -- it's what the conservative Democrats are looking at, it's what the independents are looking at. It's the way this district's been voting for years and years."
Evans and her supporters also dispute Gilligan's claim to be untainted by political connections, using every opportunity to emphasize her most obvious and inescapable political link.
"Once Linda won the primary," said Maury Chaput, Evans' campaign treasurer, "we knew the only thing we had to deal with was her brother-in-law's last name."
"Of course they were working together," Evans said. "(Mike Gilligan, who is from Glen Burnie) needed to get the vote in the 5th district, and she was his stalking horse to get it. He did extensive advertising, and she got the name recognition.
"She is connected. She cannot separate herself from him, not just in image but philosophy and connections she has."
"That's bull----," Mike Gilligan said. "She's completely independent of me. Naturally I would like to see her win, because she's family. I like her."
But other than conducting a fund-raiser for her earlier this month and sending letters on her behalf to some of his supporters, he said he has done little to help her since the primary. He did even less before that, he said, since he was busy running his own campaign.
Most political observers agree that even if Gilligan is closer to her brother-in-law than she admits, the affiliation probably won't help her much and could, in fact, hurt her. Mike Gilligan had a pro-development reputation and was known as part of the North County political element.
"It could play both ways," Derby said. "For some, it may turn them off.
For others, it may make her a better-known commodity. The reality is that it doesn't matter much, especially since Mike lost. He wasn't known down here anyway. I never hear anybody talk about them in the same breath."
Gilligan, a Baltimore native who moved to Anne Arundel 10 years ago, holds an executive MBA in health care from Loyola College and is working on a master's in finance from Loyola. She was a budget analyst for the Johns Hopkins Hospital from 1972 to 1979. Then, she worked as budget director at University of Maryland Hospital from 1979 to 1983 before being promoted to assistant administrator, a position she held until 1985.
Robert Ginn, now vice president for finance at Mount Washington Pediatric Hospital, was director of finance at University Hospital while Gilligan was budget director. "I rate her as first-class," he said.
Gilligan prepared four, $50 million budgets during difficult financial times, Ginn said. She was involved in making severe budget cuts and layoffs, and was "thoroughly knowledgeable" in state government budget procedures.
"It's not a question of whether she can analyze a budget," Evans said.
"I have no doubt she can analyze a budget very well. It's a question of political will."
Evans has been active politically since the early 1970s. She was Young Republican Woman of the Year in 1979 and either is or has been a member of numerous GOP clubs. From 1974 to 1978, she was the legislative aide for former delegate Robert R. Neall, the GOP nominee for county executive.
Evans has been working for Neall but dismisses the notion that Neall is her mentor or that she would be unduly tied to him if both are elected.
"He's a friend and political ally, and I want him to be county executive," she says.
Neall, in turn, calls Evans "honest, sincere, probably one of the best-prepared people in anything she does."
Gilligan has said that 5th District voters must choose between a community activist and a politician. But Neall and other Evans supporters stress that Evans civic activity far outweighs Gilligan's. Among the organizations on Evans' resume: the Jaycees, the Severn River Association, the YMCA, Scholarships for Scholars, the Anne Arundel Commission for Women and the Lower Broadneck Federation.
She was chairwoman of a growth management committee appointed by former County Executive Robert Pascal and led the movement to change county council elections from county-wide to district-wide contests.
Evans won her district but lost countywide to the late Wallace "Chunky" Childs in the 1978 council contest, before the switch to districtwide elections. In 1982, she ran for House of Delegates in District 30, was the top vote-getter in the primary and finished fourth of six in the general election.
"This woman has earned this job," said Laura Green, member-elect of the Anne Arundel GOP Central Committee. "Diane is and always will be a public servant. That's just the focus of her life."
For the last 10 years, Evans, who holds degrees in sociology and teaching, has worked full-time at the Circuit Court. But she says she will quit if elected.
Mary Rose, the outgoing chairwoman of the GOP Central Committee, said Evans is by far the Republicans' best hope of winning its first seat on the council in 20 years. "She has worked long and hard for this, and she deserves it," Rose said.
Evans denies that style has anything to do with this election, but, in fact, style may be her biggest obstacle to winning this council race.
Despite her comparatively limited resume, Gilligan has impressed observers by being calm and poised in the public arena. "Linda comes across as being a much more human person," one activist said.
Charles St. Lawrence, president of the Greater Severna Park Council, said Evans impressed him with her alertness and ability to store and retrieve information. "But she's a little tense. She's almost programmed, in a way. You say East-West Boulevard, and beep, beep, beep! The tape starts playing."
"I would hope that doesn't matter," said Rose. "Diane's been around a long time. She's somebody who has paid."