A pathetic is the adjective often used to describe the electorate, but the a-word that might better describe voters in Baltimore's suburbs is angry.
You could sense it in the gubernatorial vote, as Del. Ellen Sauerbrey's minimalist government message swept through the
suburbs like an autumn brush fire. She beat Rep. Helen Bentley by 2-1 in growing counties like Howard and Carroll, and even bested Mrs. Bentley in the two candidates' own backyard, Baltimore County. You could also sense it in the Democratic primary; state Sen. American Joe Miedusiewski's "average Joe" campaign resonated defiantly in a blue-collar belt from northern Anne Arundel into Baltimore and Harford counties, although Prince George's County Executive Parris Glendening won over all.
In the county executive races, voters also showed disdain for any government they perceive as spending too much or not protecting them enough.
In Howard County, attorney Susan B. Gray, who made her name by battling growth, won the Democratic nomination for executive. Her nomination threatens to paint Republican incumbent Charles Ecker as the "pro-growth" stalwart, a corner he'll want to stay out of.
In Anne Arundel County, Del. Theodore Sophocleus coasted to victory in the Democratic primary for county executive. Although he fit the mold of the "big government" candidate, his opponent, lesser-known Robert Agee, also got tarred with that brush because of his work for former executive O. James Lighthizer, who governed in the free-spending '80s.
In Baltimore County, Charles A. Dutch Ruppersberger III captured the Democratic nomination as expected. It will be interesting to watch his game plan unfold against the incumbent Republican nominee Roger Hayden, who himself surfed into office on the throw-the-rascals-out wave of 1990.
Harford County had non-contested primaries for executive, but it's clear that Ronald M. Szczybor, the GOP nominee, is going to use a junkyard-dog campaign style to goad voter emotions against Democratic incumbent Eileen Rehrmann.
And in Carroll, dissatisfaction resonated less in the commissioners' race than in the state's attorney runoff, where it looked as if Republican Jerry F. Barnes might unseat 20-year officeholder Thomas Hickman, pending a count of absentee ballots.
Even so, incumbent commissioners Donald I. Dell and Elmer C. Lippy hardly topped their party's tickets in recapturing the nomination. And in another gauge of the electorate's rancor, HTC Cornelius M. "Neil" Ridgely, sort of the thinking man's growth-control candidate, didn't place among the Democrats, but Richard Yates, a more rabid anti-growth activist, topped the GOP slate.