Four years ago, when he ran against Howard County Councilwoman Shane Pendergrass, Republican Dennis R. Schrader lost by a mere 279 votes, a razor-thin 2 percentage points, surprising virtually everyone. Since then, observers say, Mr. Schrader has never stopped running. Today, the director of operations for the University of Maryland Medical System is poised to challenge another formidable Democrat in the council's newly drawn District 3, yet this time Mr. Schrader's prospects are even brighter.
Redistricting has made Mr. Schrader's district larger and, more important for him, more Republican. Whereas four years ago the district had more than twice the number of registered Democrats as Republicans, Democrats now outnumber Republicans by only a third. Moreover, the district now encompasses a larger portion of the generally conservative southeastern area of Howard County, including Laurel and Savage.
Mr. Schrader, unopposed in the GOP primary, has campaigned as a leader who responds to community needs, which he emphasizes by pledging to seek zoning reform to give citizens maximum access to zoning cases. But unlike other candidates, who have come out in support of steps that would make the Zoning Board independent of the County Council, Mr. Schrader has shied from specifics, saying he would prefer to study the matter further.
Mr. Schrader's low-key, go-slow style stands in contrast to the more activist approach of the lone Democratic candidate in the District 3 race, Charles Acquard.
Mr. Acquard, a lobbyist for public utility concerns, is the former chairman of the Columbia Council and sits on the boards of the county's Community Action Council and Housing Alliance. He has adopted a detailed platform covering education, public safety, economic development, solid waste management and citizen activism. A key proposal is to streamline the county's regulatory process as it relates to business. While he concedes government can't solve every problem, Mr. Acquard pledges to make government a catalyst for community cooperation and volunteerism.
Without an incumbent to fall back on, voters in District 3 will have the intriguing task of choosing between two untested and distinct styles of leadership. But that will have to wait until November.
Tomorrow: Council District 4 endorsements.