The chairman of the Columbia Council has sharply criticized the role of two prominent county Democrats in defeating a Republican council member, saying partisan politics have no place in Columbia elections.
Charles Acquard of Kings Contrivance Village said the involvement of former County Executive M. Elizabeth Bobo and former County Councilman Lloyd Knowles probably dealt a fatal blow to the re-election campaign of Wilde Lake council representative Michael Deets, a Republican.
Both Knowles, a Wilde Lake resident, and Bobo, a village property owner, denied that partisanship played a role, saying they helped Deets' opponent, Norma Rose, because of their longtime friendship.
"I bought an automobile from Norma while Michael was still in kindergarten," Knowles said.
"I think politics has its place," said Acquard, who is a member of the county Democratic Central Committee. "I just think it's nice to have one institution that doesn't play politics. It certainly doesn't bode well for the future of non-partisanship in Columbia Council elections."
"I think if Michael Deets was a Democrat, first, nobody would have challenged him, and second, he wouldn't have been beaten" in the April 25 contest, Acquard said.
Acquard said he spoke to Bobo at the village center on election day. Bobo indicated she was campaigning for Rose "because Michael was a conservative Republican," Acquard said.
Bobo denied campaigning because of Deets' party membership.
"I was doing it because I thought Norma would be a good Columbia Council member," she said. "I talked to some friends I know who live in Wilde Lake, and I know a lot of people who live in Wilde Lake."
Deets, 26, ran against Councilman Paul Farragut, D-4th, in 1990 and helped draw the state party organization's legislative redistricting proposal last year.
Rose, 58, managed Bobo's successful campaign for County Council in 1978.
Rose acknowledged that some voters may not have wanted to "further Michael's political career," but did not think they decided the election.
She said Bobo and Knowles had offered help with her campaign before the election, but she had refused because she was unsure whether it was appropriate. When the two arrived on election day at the village center to offer help, she accepted.
Acquard said he understood that the Columbia Council, which governs the Columbia Association, has been a stepping stone for higher office. County Councilman Paul Farragut, for example, represented Harper's Choice Village on the Columbia Council.
But Acquard said that during his five years on the council, its members, including Deets, had kept party politics out of their decisions.
Deets, who considers himself a liberal Republican, said he could not judge whether his party affiliation cost him the election.
"It was so behind-the-scenes from my perspective. As someone who doesn't travel in those circles, I can't really judge that," he said.
He did say, however, that his 219 votes were a very strong showing for a village election, and partisan campaigning helped inflate turnout to a record 540 votes. Rose won with 303 votes.