THERE'S MUCH to like about C. Vernon Gray, which is why voters in East Columbia, Jessup and Dorsey have elected him to the Howard County Council three times.
He again deserves the Democratic Party nomination to represent the 2nd District. Republican Susan J. Cook has no primary opposition.
Mr. Gray's opponent in the Sept. 15 Democratic primary is James G. Fitzgerald, who has little to offer voters other than a deep desire to perform public service. Mr. Gray's commitment to serve is just as strong, but he has the tools of experience to deliver.
It was in large part Mr. Gray's relationship with Democratic Gov. Parris N. Glendening that helped Howard County's Republican administration garner $6.7 million in state money this month to buy the Smith Farm in Columbia, for a regional park site.
Last month, Mr. Gray became president-elect of the National Association of Counties, ascending to the post automatically following his 1997 election to a NACO vice presidency.
In a year, Mr. Gray becomes president of the lobbying group. As such, his relationships with members of Congress and the presidential administration could also benefit Howard County.
In his nearly 16 years on the council, Mr. Gray has gained a reputation for resolve. He has not been as successful pushing his positions since Republicans assumed the council majority in 1994.
But even his adversaries have said that, despite any public sparring, they have found Mr. Gray to be someone they can work with toward a reasonable compromise.
Mr. Fitzgerald, a software engineer who lives in the Village of Long Reach, doesn't think the council has gone far enough in making developers pay for the infrastructure needed to service their new subdivisions.
Mr. Gray suggested last year that the county slow growth by reducing its cap on residential development.
New data indicate housing construction has dropped below predictions without taking such a drastic step. The new council, though, must make sure future development doesn't exceed the county's ability to handle it.
There has been speculation in recent years that Mr. Gray, a political science professor at Morgan State University in Baltimore, was ready to run for higher office. But that time has not come.
His experience, temperament and affinity with residents of some of Howard's more urban environments make him, once again, an ideal Democrtic nominee in the the Second Councilmanic District.
Tomorrow: Council District 3.
Pub Date: 8/18/98