Political sparks are flying nearly 18 months before the Republican primary.
State Sen. Timothy R. Ferguson is complaining that key party members are working against him. Pointing to what he calls ethical violations, he is calling for the resignation of the chairman and the counsel of the Carroll County Republican Central Committee.
Committee members say Ferguson is trying to divide the party. Had the senator done his homework, he would have learned that committee members are permitted to campaign for their candidates of choice, they say.
Only after the primary does the committee work together to elect the Republican slate, they say.
"If Ferguson felt betrayed, as a credible senator he should have come to me and discussed the issue face to face," said Thomas W. Bowen, the committee chairman.
Ferguson, who represents Carroll and Frederick counties, said in a letter and on a radio program broadcast in Frederick that Bowen was "publicly campaigning" for Jack A. Gullo Jr., who volunteers as legal counsel for the committee.
Gullo, the mayor of New Windsor, is not an announced candidate, and Bowen said that he has not campaigned for anyone.
In his Nov. 25 letter to the committee, GOP clubs and the legislative delegation, Ferguson called what he perceives as a Bowen alliance with Gullo "a breach of public trust and clearly an abuse of power."
dTC "Campaigning is their privilege but not as sitting members or paid associates of [an] impartial Republican Central Committee," Ferguson wrote.
The state election code allows committee members to campaign openly for any candidate.
"The committee did a thorough investigation and voted unanimously and adamantly that there is nothing to the allegation," Bowen said.
Plans to run again
Gullo said the only office that interests him now is remaining as mayor of New Windsor, a position he has held since 1993. He plans to run again in May.
W. David Blair, a central committee member, said his research found "no restrictions on the participation of central committee members with regard to campaign activities."
Blair issued a news release Friday and wrote to Ferguson expressing "full confidence in Bowen and Gullo."
"If he had taken the time to research on his own, Ferguson could have reached the same conclusions," Blair said.
"I wish he would have talked to the committee before making this public. This certainly did not do him any good," he said.
Blair's statement is not a denial of the allegations, Ferguson said Friday.
"Their bylaws constrain them from taking action on my allegations," he said. "I still feel that the committee leadership bias needs to be addressed."
The committee as a body does not involve itself in campaigns before the primary. Once Republicans have chosen the slate, the committee works to elect those candidates.
"This is not about putting incumbents back in office, but about putting qualified Republicans in office," Gullo said.
Anyone has the right to run against an incumbent, Blair said. In fact, committee members themselves can run for office, as Nancy R. Stocksdale did when she ran successfully for the House of Delegates in 1994.
Challenges make for interesting races and should be expected, said the chairman of Carroll's legislative delegation.
"If you are running for re-election, you must be prepared for a challenge," said state Sen. Larry E. Haines. "I am confident the entire central committee conducted themselves fairly and acted with integrity."
Ferguson may be the one abusing power, Gullo said.
"The central committee does not exist to ensure the senator keeps a monopoly on office," Gullo said. "He has made public accusations based on incorrect facts. He could have found out informally without being divisive to the party."
Pub Date: 12/22/96