Tuesday's Democratic primary in Prince George's County shattered the County Council consensus that had forgiven taxes on the Washington Capitals hockey team, awarded a controversial cable television franchise and redistricted the county -- presumably for its own benefit.
"It was a clear vote of no-confidence in the County Council. The voters remember everything from redistricting to cable TV to zoning," said state Del. Timothy S. Maloney, one of the authors of the 1980 charter change that ended ticket politics at the council level by forcing all members to run in single-member districts.
To the losers, however, who included the council chairman and three of his allies, their defeat resulted from a lethal combination of bold positions on controversial isuses at the wrong time. And the boldest, Chairman Gerard McDonough, became the lightning rod for the voters' anger, losing a bid for a third term to school board member JoAnn Bell.
"You can't escape the hard decisions down here," said McDonough, who lost to Bell by 418 votes despite having raised six times the campaign money. "Sometimes I thought to myself 'When is it going to stop, give me a year or six months to get myself together for the election." But it just wouldn't go away."
With this election, the council shrinks from 11 at-large members to nine members elected from districts. In November, there will no longer be a majority of Democrats who ran on the same ticket with the backing of the oncedominant Democratic organization. The new majority claims to have only one thing in common; allegiance to their districts and independence from erstwhile county "machine."
Lawyers and businessment tied into development and zoning in the county has been afraid of the effect of an all-district council for more than a year. The Chamber of Commerce formed Biz Pac last spring to back candidates with their interests in mind, but four of their eight choices were defeated Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the winners have already begun to promise a big changes in the way business will be done in the county.
"We will not be in the hip pockets of the zoning attorneys," said Democratic nominee Anthony Cicoria, who ran without the ortganization's help. "The direction of our county will be changed now. The people will have representative."
Another major council decison, the controversial route of Metro's "E" line to Rosecroft Raceway, may be reopened with the change in council alignment.
Of the 11 incumbent Democrats, only four were renominated: Frank Casula, William B. Amonett, Floyd Wilson and Sue V. Mills, who was never a part of the Democratic ticket. Newcomer Hilda Pemberton, an assistant personnel director for the county hospital commission, had the backing of the "Democratic Alliance," the latest incarnation of the county's leading Democratic factin, but Democratic nominees Jim Herl, Cicoria, Richard Castaldi and Jo Ann Bell ran without the organization. Bell, in fact, ran with the expressed disapproval of stillinfluential Democratic Rep. Steny Hoyer.
While the existing Democratic organization suffered at the council level, all incumbent state senators and the majority of thier running mates were renominated. With one exception, incumbent delegates who did not run with their senators wre successful also. Some state legislators attributed their success to what they called stronger community ties, but council members pointed out that the most controversial local issues are decided onthe council level Nevertheless, some state senators were quick to disassociate themselves from McDonough's loss at the council level.
"I don't see where Jerry's race has any effect whatsoever on the Democratic organization. Jerry's a nice fellow, but he plays hardball . . . people just wanted a change," said Thomas v. (Mike) Miller, head of the county Senate delegation.
One dependable member of the now-defunct council consensus, real estate broker David Hartlove, said he was also ready for a change after his bruising 3-to-2 defeat by Sue Mills.
"I(ve retired," said Hartlove. "The vote was not on issues. I wish that district luck, and I'm going fishin.'"