For years, Robin Ficker was something of a nettlesome presence in the world of Montgomery County politics, a gadfly tolerated, sometimes with ill-concealed annoyance, by the county's established politicians.
For these politicians, there was one endearing thing about this attorney who was constantly mounting petition issues in an effort to gain elective office: he always lost.
On Tuesday, all that changed.
After running two unsuccessful campaigns for Congress - the first in 1972 as a liberal Democrat and the second in 1976 as an Independent - and after knocking on thousands of doors in Montgomery County collecting signatures for four unsuccessful charter amendments, the 35-year-old Ficker finally gained a general election victory.
Voters in the Gaithersburg-Potomac area elected Ficker, now converted to conservative Republicanism, to the Maryland House of Delegates. The quintessential political outsider was finally in.
"It was simply a matter of ascertaining voter sentiments and hitting every house in the district at least once, sometimes two and three times," said Ficker, a Bethesdan who works as an attorney for the Computer Network Corp. "I did more of that kind of thing than any other candidate."
Ficker finished second out of four candidates who ran Tuesday for two delegate seats representing Maryland's District 15B. The other winner was Judith C. Toth, a Democratic incumbent who had shunned fellow Democrat Jay Bernstein to campaign with Ficker.
Ficker's victory Tuesday stands in sharp contrast to his tragicomic political past. For years he has been known for his persistent badgering of local government and the press. In his 1972 campaign for Congress, he tried to make his situation a cause celebre when he was fined $10 by a Montgomery County Circuit Court judge for illegally posting his campaign posters on county utility poles.
Two years ago he ran for Congress against Republican Newton Steers and Democrat Lanny Davis. He does not talk about losing, however, but boasts that the 26,000-odd votes he gathered in that election was more than that of any other Independence candidate nationwide.
In between the two defeats Ficker tirelessly campaigned all over the county, getting the required number of signatures for four propositions concerning, among other things, capital gains improvements and limits on property taxes. All failed.
"I don'd want to talk about that." Ficker replied when asked yesterday about his career in politics. "What matters is the present. I got to know my constituents and they got to know me over a period of time. The issues in the election just cut across party lines."
Ficker added that, "I was also helped by the fact that I've been associated with the issue of tax ceilings since 1976. . ."
Ficker scored a second victory Tuesday when voters approved charter amendment Question F, his brainchild. The proposition will prohibit use of county money for operating landfills on land zoned for residential use.
"I've always been an independent thinker," Ficker said when asked about his defeats as a Democrat and an Independent and his victory as a Republican.
Before leaving on a fishing trip to Frederick yesterday Ficker said he had two things to attend to. "First," he said, "I've got to get my car off the shoulder of Seven Lockes Road. It conked out on me while I was on my way to the polls yesterday and I almost didn't make it. Second, I've got to go around the district taking my campaign posters down before I'm accused of leaving them up too long."