Drown announces bid for re-election


Republican Darrel Drown, who had the best showing of any County Council candidate four years ago, announced his re-election bid Sunday in Elkridge -- an area he has yet to represent.

The Democratic-controlled council altered Mr. Drown's district more radically than any other when redrawing the lines for the 1994 election. Mr. Drown's district, which now includes Elkridge, is about 40 percent new to him. It has a voter ratio of 1.24 Democrats to every Republican.

If that worries him, he doesn't show it.

"Basically, this election is going to be a referendum on fiscal responsibility and growth accountability," Mr. Drown, 43, told supporters. "It's the main reason I'm running, and I hope other Republicans are running."

Mr. Drown said that he and County Executive Charles I. Ecker, with whom he worked in the county school system prior to their political careers, began their terms with a $20 million deficit and will end with a $20 million surplus.

"We started with a burgeoning payroll but have stopped the growth of government except for teachers and police officers," he said. "I hope we will do more along the road of more fiscal responsibility. We need to make sure we don't allow the number of employees to burgeon again."

Mr. Drown said he hoped to "downsize" government and the administration by using private industry to conduct some of the functions now undertaken by government. "That way, we can add when needed, such as teachers and police," he said.

Growth is the main issue in his district, he said, and he thinks the county's adequate-facilities law enacted during his term will help control it.

"I said at the time this was not going to be an overnight fix," he said. "We need three, four, five years to catch up. If we can continue to keep it at 2,500 [new households a year] rather than the 4,000 of the '80s, we can do better planning and at least catch up."

Democrats took Mr. Drown lightly in 1990 when he ran against incumbent Democrat Angela Beltram. They are not about to do it again in 1994, as is evidenced by his newly drawn district.

Regardless, he has a history of springing political surprises. It was he, for example, who first suggested to then-Democrat Charles I. Ecker that the former deputy school superintendent run for county executive. Mr. Ecker, of course, switched parties, challenged a seemingly unbeatable incumbent, and won.

The 1990 race was Mr. Ecker's first entrance into politics and Mr. Drown's second. He ran against Ms. Beltram in 1986 and lost by 822 votes. In 1990, the former Board of Education budget officer ran against Ms. Beltram again, this time beating her by more than 2,000 votes.

Three days before the election, his pollster told him he was three points behind. The good news, pollster Brad Coker told him, was 15 percent of the people in his district were still undecided. Keep doing what he was doing and he would win, Mr. Drown was told.

He did as advised but afterward a self-effacing Mr. Drown said it was others who paved the way for his 1990 landslide -- County Executive Ecker, State Sen. Chris McCabe, and "a creative corps of volunteers" led by "a great campaign manager who could get 30 people together in an instant" to drop off campaign literature.

Mr. Drown used the same organizational skills to put a term limitation proposal on the ballot after the council had defeated his idea. The group gathered needed signatures in near record time in what was another political surprise. Once on the ballot, the measure passed by a margin of 78 percent to 22 percent. Council members now have to leave office after three four-year terms. Mr. Drown is seeking his second.

"We have some of the same folks [from the 1990 campaign] and some new folks," Mr. Drown said.

Attending community association meetings and knocking on doors is essential, Mr. Drown believes. "People feel comfortable if they know you," he said. "They can vote for me or against me, but I want to make sure they know me."

Mr. Drown said he will file for re-election office this week. Board of Appeals chairman George L. Layman, a Democrat, is the only other candidate to have filed for the office.

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