Audrey Scott, the Republican mayor of Bowie, does not utter the usual platitudes about duty and service when she is asked for her reasons for running for Congress. Scott speaks, instead, of ambition.
"As mayor, I'm dealing with the same situations every year," she said recently. "For my self improvement, I thing I should move up or out."
It is not the typical response of a politician, but there is nothing typical or slick about Audrey Scott. In Contrast to Steny Hoyer, the former state senator who is her main opponent in Maryland's 5th Congressional District race, Scott has spent her career in local politics and she has sought to present an image of a plain spoken "people person" in touch with her constituents and their interests.
It is a fitting campaign theme for someone who entered politics 11 years ago as a citizen activist after deciding that Bowie needed a new hospital. Within five years, the hospital was built and Scott was elected to the Bowie City Council. She became mayor a year later, in 1976 and has held the position ever since.
The job has earned her a fair amount of recognition, judging from a recent campaign appearance at the New Carrollton metro stop. Of the 50 people she greeted, about a dozen indicated they knew she was mayor of Bowie, and a handful of them had gone to her with their problems.
There was, for example, Rudy Sgro, a Bowie resident who once had spoken to Scott because he was worried about a pattern of vandalism in his neighborhood. Scott asked police to put extra patrols in the neighborhood, and police obliged, according to Sgro. There was also Rodney Morris, whose sister's soccer club once had asked Scott to help them get access to a playing field. Through Scott's efforts, the club used a playing field on a regular basis, according to a club member.
Scott makes an issue of such service to constituents, at least partly because it was an important factor in the popularity of the woman she wants to succeed, Gladys Spellman. "I do feel as though there's a similarity in our style," says Scott.
Scott, again in the style of her predecessor, presents herself as particularly concerned about the needs of federal government employes, since such employes are numerous in the 5th Distrist.To make her concern seem genuine, she mentions that her husband works for the defense department, and that she was once a federal employe. Scott's stint as a teacher employed by the federal government lasted three years, after she graduated from college.
"Too often the federal employe is forced to bear the brunt of our troubled economy," she says in her television spots, referring to her promise to her promise to fight for the retention of a cost-of-living adjustment for retired federal workers.
Scott always has voted for Republican presidents, but on some social issues she seems to side with the more liberal wing of the party. She supports the Equal Rights Amendment, and thinks women should have the option to have abortions. But she is not specificlly going after a "women's vote" in her campaign. "I'm presenting myself as a qualfied candidate, and I don't feel I can be categorized," she says.
But Scott's media adviser, Dennis Lonegan, is hoping that Scott's gender will work in her favor -- on a subtle level. Lonegan claims that since the district's previous representative was a woman, "there's a neighborliness and warmth connected with that seat," which he thinks Scott also conveys.
Yet, as the campaign has progressed, Scott has revealed a tougher side that belies her friendly manner. As part of her strategy, she has tried to establish a sharp contrast between herself and Hoyer. "Audrey is one of the people, not one of the boys," says Lonegan, in a reference to Hoyer's past involvement with the Prince George's County Democratic organization.
Such criticisms of Hoyer are the message of some of Scott's television commericals and pitches to voters. Those in the Hoyer camp say that Scott has taken Hoyer's positions out of context, particularly his voting record on fiscal issues. So angered were they by Scott's tactics that the chairman of the Hoyer campaign, Gary Alexander, handed out press releases bemoaning Scott's use of the same "disreputable tactics used by Richard Nixon throughout his political career."
Hoyer's aides say that Scott is using "character assassination" in her campaign because she cannot win on the basis of her record.
As mayor of Bowie, Scott's responsibilities are more like those of a city council president, someone who has a vote equal to other council members and who does not make policy or have veto power over legislation. A city manager is a charge of the day-to-day operation of government.
Scott's main job as mayor has been to act as the city's lobbyist before county and state agencies, and apparently she has performed this function well. When the city needed funds to restore its historic Belair Mansion, for example, Scott appeared before the appropraite federal agencies and obtained the funds. When the city of Bowie wanted to pay less money in taxes to the county, it was Scott who argued the case before the County Council.
As a Republican underdog in a county full of registered Democrats, Scotts hopes she can convince voters that being of the same party as Ronald Reagan will enable her to get things done for the county. "A Republican can better represent the needs of consituents of this district because she'd have the ear of President Reagan," she says.
Scott also hopes to gather the votes of Democrats by stressing the economic issue. "The concern of everyone, regardless of party affiliation, is the economy," says Scott. "I think everyone appreciates the fact that something has to be done to turn out country around and everyone is prepared to sacrifice."
Scott calls her opponent, Hoyer, a "big spender," and maked an issue of his spending record when he was a Maryland state senator.But Scott has not made any moves to cut spending in her own city, and her votes on fiscal issues in Bowie usually result in increased spending, according to minutes of the Bowie City Council.
During the five years that Scott has been mayor of Bowie, the city's tax rate increased every year except in 1980, when it declined by seven cents. The tax rate that Scott and the rest of the city countil recently proposed was for 56 cents per every $100 of assessed value, an increase of five cents over last year and an increase of 16 cents over two years ago, according to city budget documents.
Scott justifies the tax increase by saying it is lower than the inflation rate, and says that Bowie has one of the lowest tax rates in the state.
On other issues, Scott also has indicated that she will support spending increases. She was, for example, one of five council members who voted to give the city attorney a 36 percent salary increase, above the objections of two council members who said the increase was far above a cost of living increase.
Scott, 45, grew up in Woburn, Mass., the daughter of a church secretary and a crane operator. After getting her degree in English from Tufts University, she took graduate courses in English at Harvard but left before completing her master's. For the next three years, until 1962, she taught first grade to American youngsters in Japan and then France.
While she was in Japan, she met her husband, John Scott, an engineer for the defense department.
The years between 1962 and 1971 do not exist on her resume. They were the years that she spent as a housewife, raising her sons in England and then, from 1967 on, in Bowie.
Scott has been reelected twice as mayor, running, she says, "on my record, my accessibility, my concern for people, constituent service, and my being a fiscal conservative."
Despite Scott's popularity as mayor, her two tries for the House of Delegates ended in defeat - losses Scott blames on the fact that she was a Republican in a county of Democrats.
Scott belives her luck in the congressional race will be better because in a small field issues and personality, rather than party affiliation, will be the most important consideration for voters.
Her friends agree. The other day Scott's campaign aide, Barbara Herring, handed Scott her horoscope while the two were riding in Herring's car from Bowie to Washington. Scott read it aloud. The message was simple. "There is no doubt that you are about to lead a more complete and independent life."