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  • Maryland Elections '98

  •   In Arundel, A Battle From Within

    By Peter S. Goodman
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Tuesday, December 30, 1997; Page B08

    In launching a long-shot bid for the Anne Arundel county executive's office, County Council member Diane R. Evans (R-Arnold) is hoping to capitalize on discontent with incumbent John G. Gary's ties to real estate developers and what some see as his domineering management style.

    But several Republican leaders in Anne Arundel lashed out at Evans yesterday, accusing her of putting her ambitions ahead of the interests of the party. Some worried that her candidacy will force Gary to spend his campaign funds on his own race, rather than parceling them out to fellow Republicans seeking seats in the legislature or on the County Council.

    "She's making a huge mistake," said County Council member William C. Mulford II (R-Annapolis). "I don't think she's thought about how this hurts all Republican elected officials."

    Conservationists and anti-growth activists welcomed Evans to the race, seeing her as an environmentally friendly alternative to Gary, whom some decry as too cozy with developers.

    "I'm so glad," said Barbara Samorajczyk, a registered Republican and a member of the Severn River Association, a local environmental group. "We're seeing example after example of further degradation of the environment in the name of development."

    Evans has planned a formal announcement for Jan. 7. In an interview last week, her campaign manager, Maury Chaput, confirmed that she had decided to enter the race. "She's got until January 7 to back out," he said.

    Evans declined to comment yesterday, saying she would not discuss her candidacy until her formal announcement. But in past interviews, she has stressed her ties to community associations and her feeling that local input should drive county policy -- a theme expected to be heard often during the campaign.

    Gary pronounced himself "a little floored" by Evans's decision. "It's incredible to have someone from within your own party challenge you when the Democratic Party doesn't put forward a candidate they think can beat you."

    Indeed, most analysts think Gary will be difficult to take down. Thanks to good economic times, his administration is looking at a $24 million unanticipated budget surplus, sparking talk of tax cuts. His most recent campaign finance statements, filed last month, showed that he has $260,000 in the bank.

    "I still have plenty of capability to raise more money," Gary said. "I probably wouldn't have had another fund-raiser, but I probably will now."

    Evans says she has less than $50,000 to date, but she is counting on turning Gary's financial advantage into a negative, Chaput said. She hopes to persuade voters to see his fund-raising prowess -- particularly within the development crowd -- as evidence that he is working not for communities, but for special interests.

    Chaput puts much stock in a poll conducted last month by Mason-Dixon Campaign Polling and Strategy Inc., which found that among Republicans who voted in the 1994 primary, Evans would virtually tie Gary if the vote were held today. Chaput said Evans hopes to capitalize on perceptions that Gary is mean-spirited and uninclusive.

    Gary dismissed such talk as "typical political rhetoric," adding that his money from developers is neither surprising nor significant.

    "Can she prove that any of those contributions has resulted in special treatment?" he said, noting that his administration recently imposed a moratorium on new development in areas where schools are crowded. "Those are empty charges."

    Earlier this month, Del. Phillip D. Bissett, a Republican who chairs the Anne Arundel County delegation, offered to help Evans raise money if she would abandon thoughts of challenging Gary and seek a seat in the legislature instead.

    "She's ill-advised running against a well-financed, successful county executive," he said. "She'd be a much better candidate for the General Assembly and could enjoy much more success over here."

    Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, the person most frequently mentioned as a potential Democratic flag-bearer against Gary, said Evans's candidacy takes the pressure off his party to field a candidate soon.

    "When you're an incumbent in a good year, you want as few waves as possible," said Del. Michael W. Burns (R-Anne Arundel). "Diane has just thrown a 50-pound rock into the water."

    © Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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