The Maryland Republican Party has named Carroll County its GOP "County of the Year" for electing 15 of 16 Republicans on the ticket in November.
Local party leaders reveled in the recognition.
"You ain't seen nothing yet," said Ragen L. Cherney of the Carroll County Republican Central Committee. "Bring on 1996!"
The award, presented at a convention in Ocean City on June 3, is called the Samuel Chase Award. It is given annually to a county that has demonstrated political gains during the past year.
Samuel Chase was a Marylander who signed the Declaration of Independence and became a U.S. Supreme Court justice.
In presenting the award, Senate Minority Leader John A. Cade of Anne Arundel County praised Carroll Republicans for giving gubernatorial candidate Ellen R. Sauerbrey one of her biggest victories in the state's 24 jurisdictions.
"This county did not stop until they gave Ellen Sauerbrey over 70 percent of the vote," Mr. Cade said.
Mrs. Sauerbrey beat Democrat Parris N. Glendening by a margin of almost 3-1 in Carroll. Only Garrett County showed a larger margin.
Mr. Glendening was elected governor.
Because of Carroll's success in getting out the Republican vote, the state party is distributing copies of the county's 11-page strategy, called "Carroll County Precinct Organization," said Thomas W. Bowen, chairman of the Carroll County Republican Central Committee.
'Quite a boost'
County leaders have been asked to speak to Republican clubs (( throughout the state, including in Prince George's County, which won the Samuel Chase award last year.
"It gave us quite a boost," Michael S. Steele, chairman of the Prince George's County Republican Central Committee, said of the award.
Prince George's Republicans are working to chip away at the Democrats' 4-1 lead in voter registration, he said.
Carroll Democrats don't have to make up such a large margin, but they have work to do, said Scott Markle, a member of the Carroll County Democratic Central Committee.
"We're doing a lot of soul-searching," he said.
Registered Democrats in Carroll outnumbered Republicans until 1990, when the GOP gained a 931-vote edge. In November, registered Republicans outnumbered Democrats by about 3,800 voters.
Republicans are continuing to gain voters at a faster rate than the Democrats, county election board records show. The GOP gained 1,390 voters from November to June 8, Democrats gained 410 voters in that period.
Carroll had 32,828 registered Republicans and 28,000 registered Democrats as of June 8.
The only winning Democrat in the November election in Carroll was District 5 Del. Richard N. Dixon of Westminster, who was re-elected to his fourth term. Mr. Dixon, now the only Democrat in the six-member Carroll delegation, plays a significant role in Annapolis, Mr. Markle said.
"Richard Dixon is the only one in the Carroll County delegation with any clout," he said.
Mr. Dixon is a member of the House Appropriations Committee and chairs the Capital Budget Subcommittee. He was out of town Friday and could not be reached for comment.
In the 1994 and 1995 General Assembly sessions, Mr. Dixon used his political influence with former Gov. William Donald Schaefer and high-ranking Democrats to secure promises that the state would pay 60 percent of the $12 million needed to build Oklahoma Middle School in Eldersburg.
The school, long sought by area parents who demanded action, would relieve crowding at Sykesville Middle, which is about 200 students over its capacity of 855.
Mr. Markle acknowledged that Carroll Republicans were better financed than Democrats in the last election and had more volunteers.
"It's a wonder they didn't beat Richard," he said.
Asked if Democrats had noticed any changes in local government since the Republican sweep, Mr. Markle said he has been disappointed in certain decisions.
"If they would take the same kind of planning and thinking in
governing as they did in the campaign, we'd be in good shape," he said.
He cited a decision by District 5 Sen. Larry E. Haines and District 4 Sen. Timothy R. Ferguson to introduce a bill to exempt The EnterTRAINment Line in Union Bridge from state admissions and amusement taxes. The Senate Budget and Taxation Committee killed the bill, and a Maryland Tax Court judge ruled in April that the excursion train line must pay the tax.
The EnterTRAINment Line stopped running last month because of a contract dispute over an undisclosed amount of back rent with Maryland Midland Railway, which owns the tracks the excursion line uses and pulls its cars.
The EnterTRAINment Line also owes the state, Union Bridge and Westminster about $500,000 in back taxes, interest and penalties.
Mr. Markle said another example of a poor Republican decision came this spring when the all-Republican Board of County Commissioners declined an invitation to play host to the U.S. Olympic cycling trials.
The commissioners said the event would attract too many people and cause traffic problems, and they did not want to spend $31,000 to play host to it.
Officials in Altoona, Pa., which sponsored the last Olympic cycling trials, said the community reaped $7 million worth of benefits as a result of the races.
Mr. Bowen could not name specific changes that have occurred in local government as a result of the Republican sweep in Carroll.
"Have I seen concrete changes? Yeah, I think I have. The Republican Party of Maryland is on the move," he said.
At the state level, the increased number of Republicans in the General Assembly disrupted business as usual for the Democrats, he said.
"Now there is some commotion. Can I call it enlightenment?" Mr. Bowen said.
He denied that Delegate Dixon is the most powerful member of the Carroll delegation. Mr. Cherney, however, acknowledged Mr. Dixon's contributions.
"He's got a lot of rank on the Appropriations Committee. That works for Carroll County's behalf," Mr. Cherney said, then added, "A lot of Republicans put him into office."
Mr. Dixon has said he considers himself a conservative and recommended after the election that Carroll Democrats should develop a philosophy more consistent with the views of a majority of county residents.
Mr. Markle said the Democratic Central Committee is working to unify its platform, raise money and recruit volunteers.
The plan that helped the local GOP elect its slate of candidates was three-pronged, Mr. Bowen said. The party issued TC four-page voters guide for the general election, raised money through county Republican clubs and recruited about 200 volunteers.
"There was a tremendous teamwork," Mr. Bowen said. "It shows the Republican Party is alive and active, and there's more to come."