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Alliances split, but couple still host an Obama party

The Baltimore Sun

Hillary Rodham Clinton's narrow victory in New Hampshire could mean that Maryland's Feb. 12 primary will still matter - all of which cheered Pam Guzzone on election night as the Clinton supporter helped her husband, Del. Guy Guzzone, host a party for more than 130 Barack Obama supporters at their home.

"I'm actually at this place where - Huh? What happened with all these polls?" Pam Guzzone said, referring to predictions that Clinton would lose in New Hampshire.

Weeks before the Iowa caucuses, Guy Guzzone asked his wife, even though she backs Clinton, if she would agree to have a couple of dozen of his fellow Obama backers over to their Columbia home to watch the New Hampshire results Tuesday night.

After Obama's Iowa victory, though, the Guzzone home became a destination place.

Early in the evening, with minimal returns available, Obama's state campaign co-chairman, Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, told the crowd not to be fooled by the early results. He predicted a 10-point victory for Obama before leaving to spend the rest of the evening with his family.

Gansler, like David Marker, the Howard County organizer for Obama, said they see the Illinois senator as no ordinary candidate.

Standing near Obama in Iowa, Gansler said that: "I felt like a 12-year old. I was mesmerized by the man. Here, we've got a guy who is so inspirational."

He said Howard County "has been the political fulcrum for the state" Obama organization.

The election party also drew state Sen. James N. Robey, and County Council members Jen Terrasa and Calvin Ball - all declared Obama backers.

County Executive Ken Ulman and his family stopped by, too, though Ulman has remained neutral. He said he would love to be more involved but didn't commit himself.

"This signals my support of all my friends who are supporting Obama," Ulman said about his presence.

Several attendees said that as long as Clinton and Obama finished a close first and second in New Hampshire, which they did, who was first and who was second didn't matter much for the long haul. Others sharply disagreed.

"In reality, it doesn't [matter], but there's perception that's important," said Marker, a statistician. "You like to win."

Guy Guzzone said he felt that Obama is in the ballgame, which is what counts at this stage.

Robey agreed. "There are many states [to go] yet," he said.

Obama supporters said their man did well.

"Obama demonstrated electability," Ball said. "It's a very strong showing for someone counted out six months ago."

Former Del. Neil F. Quinter said that if Clinton had lost New Hampshire, "it's pretty much over. If you win both [Iowa and New Hampshire] you're the nominee, but honestly, I think it's a dog fight," he said.

Asking Democrats

None of Howard County's Republican legislators attended the annual League of Women Voters legislative preview luncheon Jan. 5, but county Republican Party Chairwoman Joan Becker was in the audience, and she had a politically charged question for the four Democrats on the panel.

How competitive is Howard County in attracting new people, given increases in taxes and the flat real estate market?

Republicans say the higher sales, income and computer taxes enacted by the Democrats in the General Assembly are making some business owners and wealthy residents think about leaving the state.

But Democrat Robey, a former two-term county executive who boosted local tax rates 30 percent in 2004, said potential residents are more interested in the quality of county schools and the quality of life in the county than in taxes.

While still executive, he said, he visited federal employees in Northern Virginia who were not happy about being forced to relocate to Fort Meade, but once he showed them average standardized test scores achieved by Howard students, they quickly warmed to the idea.

"We have so much going for us here," Robey said, noting that he frequently meets new residents at his over-55 condominium complex in Elkridge, who - like he and his wife, Janet - have moved from other parts in Howard County.

"I'm happy in Howard County, and I think most people are," he said.


Last week, the point made by a book on local governments' ability to raise revenue by David Brunori, a George Washington University professor, was misstated in this column.

Brunori asserts that in an environment where state and federal governments are making inroads on local taxing authority, the property tax could be the salvation for local governments.

Although the property tax is often unpopular, it remains the best way for local governments to collect revenue because it is predictable, Brunori said, adding that the value of property grows without requiring any change in tax rates and the property cannot move away.

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