Health hinders council hopeful


Ellicott City Democrat Lynne Bergling continues to campaign and plans to attend a candidates forum in Elkridge this week, but she has been dogged by persistent health problems that are hampering her run for the Howard County Council.

Bergling, 42, sent an e-mail message to newspapers over the weekend after she was unable to participate in a candidates forum Saturday morning at First Baptist Church of Guilford because of a reaction to medication. She said she wants to guard against inaccurate reports and rumors.

"I can speak, but I can't project my voice. My throat doesn't hurt at all. In going door-to-door, there are really very few people who talk much. I don't think I'm doing much less than I would be doing [otherwise]," she said yesterday.

Bergling plans to attend a forum at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Elkridge Landing Middle School, she said.

In addition to the African-American forum Saturday, she missed an earlier forum at Worthington Elementary - both attended by Councilman Christopher J. Merdon, her Republican opponent.

Bergling's problems began in early August, she said, when what seemed like a bad summer cold persisted through the close of the Howard County Fair. "I didn't go to the doctor until after the fair," figuring it was nothing serious, she said.

She ended up diagnosed with walking pneumonia, however, and was coughing so badly that she eventually suffered a broken rib.

She has recovered from the pneumonia and took medicine to stop the coughing and allow her rib to heal. But she then developed a swelling in her throat that produced a vocal cord problem and a persistent low-grade fever.

Bergling said that her doctor has encouraged her to speak as little as possible and at a low volume to prevent further throat irritation. She is seeing a specialist.

In the latest episode, "I experienced some pretty bad side effects to a narcotic cough medicine which I began taking Friday evening, leaving me unable to participate in the African-American Forum in Guilford on Saturday," she said.

The effect of her health woes on her campaign is uncertain.

District 1, covering Ellicott City and Elkridge, has about 1,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans, though there are 4,500 independent voters. But the district has elected Republicans in the past two races.

Although Bergling received 3,308 votes in the primary to Merdon's 3,142, he said that means little because neither candidate had an opponent.

"I'm not worried about those numbers at all," Merdon said. "People just don't know her."

In 1994, for example, Democrat George Layman received 300 more votes in the primary than Republican Darrell Drown did, but in the general election Drown won with a 2-1 majority, according to elections board figures.

Wendy Fiedler, Howard's Democratic Party chairman, said the party is concerned about Bergling's health, but "she's a good, quality candidate" and the party will help.

If Bergling needs it, the party will help supply surrogate speakers at forums until she recovers, she said.

"We will be discussing how we can help her out," Fiedler said.

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