When Howard County Councilman C. Vernon Gray decided not to test the waters for county executive this year against a popular incumbent, most observers thought he had opted for the safer course. As it turned out, it has not been so safe as to guarantee his re-election. Mr. Gray faces significant opposition from within his party as well as from Republicans.
An activist legislator who has fought to place Howard at the forefront of controls on public smoking and to foster affordable housing, Mr. Gray deserves the chance to represent Democrats in the general election.
His opponent, Kathryn A. Mann, has strong credentials, but she cannot match Mr. Gray's experience or accomplishments in office. A fiscal conservative, Ms. Mann supports funding for older schools, but she also opposes new taxes or borrowing to make up for the neglect in these facilities. Beyond expressing a need for long-term budgetary planning, Ms. Mann offers no program to pay for school renovations.
Ms. Mann also favors construction of a new landfill, despite the fact that all of the county's existing landfills have shown signs of leaking contaminates; Mr. Gray has adopted the county administration's view that county waste should be shipped out of state temporarily until a regional incinerator is built.
Ms. Mann did locate Mr. Gray's soft spot when she demanded that he recuse himself from voting as a member of the Zoning Board on a decision related to the new Redskins stadium in Laurel that affects Freestate Raceway. Mr. Gray is involved in a billing dispute with the raceway over a fund-raiser held there years ago. Mr. Gray agreed not to vote on the matter. But the controversy underscored Mr. Gray's status as the county's second-leading fund-raiser, behind the county executive.
On the GOP side, Evelyn Tanner, a lawyer and vice chair of the county Board of Appeals, is our choice in the primary. She supports making the Zoning Board independent of the council, and proposes a review of procurement procedures to improve participation by small and minority businesses. Her challenger, Gary Prestrianni, has focused on a petition drive to have county zoning decisions taken to referendum, which we oppose.
Tomorrow: Council District 3 endorsements.