Voters of Anne Arundel County face a tough choice in the county executive's race -- two candidates who are both highly qualified for the job. The difference is largely one of nuance and style -- the technocrat vs. the populist.
Republican Robert Neall is unquestionably competent. His experience in the legislature and as drug czar for Governor Schaefer makes him one of Annapolis' power elite, which could work to Arundel's advantage. Neall's skill on the Appropriations Committee proved his fiscal prowess; he is a consummate number-cruncher who has presented a credible fiscal platform. But it is a bottom-line approach that involves an almost dispassionate discussion of lay-offs and cutbacks. Neall is the ultimate resume candidate -- well-qualified, but somewhat aloof.
Ted Sophocleus, on the other hand, is a man of the people. Like Mayor William Donald Schaefer, he has a common-man persona and the unusual ability to immerse himself in the minutiae of local government -- sewage back-ups, rezoning, potholes, snow removal -- and to respond to constituents' concerns. Though Sophocleus has played up his country druggist image during this campaign, his eight years on the council have given him a refined grasp of budgetary matters. We have no doubt he can manage the county's $617 million budget. If cuts must be made he can find where they can be made with the least human sacrifice. Equally important, Sophocleus knows how to build consensus on -- and with -- the council.
With hard economic times coming, tough choices will have to be made. Ted Sophocleus, who intimately knows and understands the people and the process, is our choice.
In the council's 1st District, we support Democrat George Bachman over Republican Gerald Starr, a financial administrator. Bachman, who served on the council from 1965 to 1982, brings political seasoning and a history of community service. In the 2nd District, our choice is Republican Ernest Michaelson, an environmental consultant who has been involved in the BWI Neighbors Committee and recycling programs.
In District 3, where Democrat Edward "Buddy" Ahern is being challenged by Carl Holland, we support the incumbent. Ahern has been an exemplary community advocate, getting state money for local projects. In the 5th District we favor Republican Diane Evans, a support officer for the county's Domestic Relations Division. Democrat Linda Gilligan, a community activist, is an impressive contender, but Evans' years of civic and political involvement give her a clear edge. In District 6, incumbent Democrat Maureen Lamb -- a tenacious councilwoman who led the fight to preserve Quiet Water Farm -- deserves support.
Council chairwoman Virginia Clagett deserves re-election in the 7th District. Clagett, whose name is practically synonymous with farmland preservation, is strong on environmental issues and constituent service. Her 16 years on the council will be invaluable in this time of turnover.