Slow-growth activist John W. Taylor's battle for the hearts and minds of western Howard County residents ended quietly this week, along with his 22-month tryst with the Democratic Party.
He lost his battle over the pastures and subdivisions of Glenelg, West Friendship and Clarksville in November's County Council election. But he lost his affection for the Democratic Party because of President Clinton's recognition of Vietnam.
Mr. Taylor, who lost County Council contests as a Republican in 1990 and as a Democrat in 1994, announced this week that he was closing his campaign finance account and would not seek office "in the foreseeable future." That includes the next county and state elections in 1998, he said.
He also announced that he switched his voter registration back to the Republican Party on Tuesday.
"It's been a long time coming, and it has nothing to do with local politics," said Mr. Taylor, 39. "For months, I've been watching the Democratic Party slowly drift back toward the left."
Mr. Taylor said that when he became a Democrat in September 1993, the nation's No. 1 Democrat, President Clinton seemed to be moving the party toward the center of the political spectrum. But since then, he said, the president has developed an affinity for left-leaning policies.
"The final deciding factor was his recognition of Vietnam," said Mr. Taylor, who did not serve in Vietnam but is the son of an Air Force colonel. "I decided it was kind of the last straw."
Mr. Taylor said the switch also will enable him to begin working on the campaign of the man he hopes will replace Mr. Clinton: Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole of Kansas.
Mr. Taylor also believes that his standing as a western Howard community activist was greatly diminished when he was trounced in last November's general election by County Council Chairman Charles C. Feaga, a Republican. Mr. Taylor received only 33 percent of the vote to Mr. Feaga's 67 percent.
For half a decade, he and Mr. Feaga have formed one of the county's most bitter rivalries.
In 1990, Mr. Taylor pulled few punches in challenging Mr. Feaga for the Republican nomination for the council's 5th District, which is made up almost exclusively of west county neighborhoods. The county was on the tail end of the county's 1980s development boom, and Mr. Taylor established himself as an opponent of unchecked development and painted Mr. Feaga as an advocate of loosening development controls.
Mr. Feaga won the nomination by 240 votes, but has never forgotten the animosity of that campaign.
Mr. Taylor said that since his defeat last year, those old wounds have healed. But yesterday, Mr. Feaga still was not quite ready to welcome Mr. Taylor back into the county Republican Party.
Mr. Feaga said that while he approves of switching parties for philosophical reasons, "certainly when someone does it twice suddenly, it has to look like opportunity. . . . I think there can't be any sincerity to this."
Mr. Taylor pointed out, however, that he'd been been a Republican for 20 years before he switched. "All I'm doing, in essence, is returning to my roots," he said.
Allan H. Kittleman, chairman of the county Republican Central Committee, was more gracious toward Mr. Taylor, who sharply criticized the Republican Party leadership when he switched parties in 1993.
"I welcomed him back," he said, conceding that "there will probably be some bridges to mend, that's for sure."