Parties choose known names Del. Kittleman's son wins GOP backing, for County Council; Democrats pick Slack Katz; Primary 1998


The son of a well-known Republican Party elder took his first step toward public office, and a one-time failed Democratic candidate found victory as a Republican in County Council primary races last night.

Allan H. Kittleman, the 39-year-old son of Del. Robert H. Kittleman, claimed the Republican nomination for the council in District 5, western Howard, over Gail H. Bates. Kittleman, with nearly 60 percent of the vote, will face Democratic primary victor Debra Ann Slack Katz in an election to succeed Charles C. Feaga.

In District 3, southern Howard, former Columbia Democratic Club president Wanda Hurt easily defeated 28-year-old attorney Kirk J. Halpin for the Republican nomination to succeed Dennis R. Schrader.

Hurt, who won more than 70 percent of the vote, will face Democrat Guy Guzzone, the former Maryland director of the Sierra Club, in what is expected to be a close race that could well decide which party controls the council for the next four years.

In District 1, Ellicott City and Elkridge, software developer Christopher J. Merdon captured roughly two-thirds of the vote in defeating Timothy McCoy, a real estate agent. Merdon, 27, had been running for more than a year, knocking on doors with a managed-growth message. He will face Democrat George Layman, a limousine driver and member of the county Board of Appeals.

And as expected, the District 2 primary in east Columbia was not competitive, as four-term incumbent Councilman C. Vernon Gray breezed to victory with almost 80 percent of the vote against little-known software engineer James Fitzgerald. Gray will face Republican Susan Cook, former school board chairwoman, in November.

The race with the highest profile was in western Howard, where Bates and Kittleman sounded a lot like the executive candidates that backed them: Bates, an assistant to County Executive Charles I. Ecker, was endorsed by Feaga and defended the county's record of managing growth much as Feaga has; Kittleman, an attorney supported by Schrader, has run largely on a platform of restraining residential growth.

Bates based her campaign on her years of public and hTC community service, but she and two relatively unknown candidates, James Adams and Xaver Gramkow, faced the challenge of overcoming Kittleman's high family name recognition in western Howard.

Barbara Brookhart of Ellicott City, for example, said she voted for Kittleman because she was "familiar with his name. I don't know anything about the others, but did recognize that one on the ballot."

Slack Katz, of the Slack Funeral Home family, had little difficulty in defeating Democrat Bernard Noppinger, but she faces a tough general election in a region that has consistently elected Republicans.

In Hurt's primary, the candidates' differences on issues were not as pointed as in the Bates-Kittleman race or in the GOP executive's primary. Halpin and Hurt, a 55-year-old former Columbia Council member, both advocated better managing of growth and keeping a watchful eye on school spending.

Halpin tried to sway voters by discussing Hurt's record as a former Democratic activist and candidate for office, comparing it to his own background as a lifelong Republican.

Hurt became a Republican in January 1995, months after losing a Democratic primary for the House of Delegates, and many in the GOP establishment -- including Schrader -- backed her run for the council.

Pub Date: 9/16/98

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