THE FOCUS is on the Republicans in the race for the Howard County Council District 1 seat, which covers the eastern section of the county.
But that's only because sole Democratic candidate, George L. Layman, 55, an optician-turned-limousine driver and a member of the county Board of Appeals, doesn't have to compete in a primary on Sept. 15. He has come out in opposition to this year's cut in the piggyback income tax and supports more spending for education.
He is running against what he calls a "mean-spirited" Republican council majority that is overly partisan, he believes.
The GOP, meanwhile, has two very good candidates aiming to face Mr. Layman in the Nov. 3 general election, but Christopher J. Merdon seems the best choice for the Republican nomination.
Mr. Merdon, a software developer, has been campaigning for more than a year to succeed two-term incumbent Darrel E. Drown, who chose not to seek re-election.
At 27, Mr. Merdon is a past president of the Howard County Republican Club. His energetic campaign has seen him knocking on hundreds of doors to discuss managed growth.
That is probably the most important issue in this district, which includes Elkridge and Ellicott City, the historic county seat.
Although parts of the district have been inhabited since colonial times, a spate of development in recent years has congested traffic and strained infrastructure.
Mr. Merdon, noting the concern of residents, has vowed not to accept campaign money from developers.
(Mr. Layman made the same no-developer pledge four years ago, but raised little money, was beaten handily by Mr. Drown and isn't repeating that promise this time.)
His opponent in the primary is Timothy McCoy, a real estate agent who lives in the Wheatfield community.
Despite his occupation, Mr. McCoy says he wouldn't be a patsy for developers, either.
But he doesn't see growth as the problem.
Rather, it hasn't been managed well, he believes. He wants to see more commercial development to strengthen the tax base.
One gets a better sense from Mr. Merdon that he would be a watchdog against overdevelopment.
The council in Howard has an exceptionally large role in land-use issues because it also sits as the county zoning board.
With the retirement of Mr. Drown, there is an opportunity to bring a fresh perspective to representation of this traditionally conservative area.
We endorse Mr. Merdon in the Republican primary for Howard County's 1st Councilmanic District.
-! Tomorrow: Council District 2.
Candidates: Republicans Timothy McCoy and Christopher J. Merdon. No contest in Democratic primary.
Data: 1994 primary turnout: 70 percent of Democrats and 68 percent of Republicans.
Term: four years
The district: This eastern section of Howard County includes part of Patapsco Valley State Park as well as Hanover, Elkridge and Ellicott City, the county seat. Housing varies from quaint 18th century architecture to modern colonials. The district's portion of commercial U.S. 40 includes Chatham Mall and Normandy Shopping Center.
The challenge: The popularity of new subdivisions near Ellicott City has exacerbated traffic problems and made growth and development major concerns.
Pub Date: 8/17/98