While voters in Howard County's District 1 don't have a choice in the Sept. 13 primary for County Council, they face a major decision come November. The council race in the district, which runs from Ellicott City to Elkridge, pits incumbent Councilman Darrell Drown against Columbia Democratic Club President George L. Layman.
A Republican, Mr. Drown has served one term on the council. While he hasn't often distinguished himself as a leader, he has allied himself with Democrats to pass key legislation. He spearheaded the successful effort to impose term limits on council members, and he backed progressive legislation to ban smoking in public places.
He also ran afoul of residents of the Ellicott Meadows townhouse community in his district, when he supported a zoning change that allows Wal-Mart to build a Sam's Club warehouse store at the intersection of U.S. 40 and North Ridge Road. We supported that controversial decision as a compromise that sought to address both business and residential concerns, but it nevertheless has made him vulnerable to critics in this campaign.
While playing down the growth issue, Mr. Drown points out that he favors placing a cap of 2,500 units on the number of houses that could be built annually in the county, down from the previous 4,000 units. He also favors aggressive plans to construct and expand roadways to respond to expected growth and maintain a healthy economy.
Democrat Layman, meanwhile, has had first-hand experience with the effects of development. He once lived in the path of the proposed extension of Route 100, and successfully fought its rerouting.
An affable candidate, he may be perceived as more receptive to community concerns, although he does not consider himself a no-growth advocate and believes the county must "continue its efforts to attract new businesses and retain existing businesses."
Although Democrats slightly outnumber Republicans in this district, Mr. Layman faces an uphill battle. Campaign finance reports show him with $234 on hand, while his opponent has a comfortable $6,000. He also must overcome a lack of name recognition by November.
Tomorrow: Endorsements for the Howard County Executive and Council District 2 races.