A year ago yesterday, Democrat Sidney Kramer swept into office as Montgomery County executive after waging a campaign bankrolled by real estate developers and dominated by a caustic debate over the future of the county's growth.
Today, just across the Potomac River in Fairfax County, Democrat Audrey Moore is savoring her own landslide election as chairman of the Fairfax Board of Supervisors, but for wholly different reasons. While her race also centered on the volatile issue of development, Moore -- unlike Kramer -- shunned the local building community and won on a platform of drastically slower growth.
The startlingly different election results in the two most prosperous counties in the Washington area in just 12 months are further proof that suburban voters hold widely differing views about the boom that has made the area one of the nation's hottest real estate markets.
In Northern Virginia, the leader in local commercial development, Tuesday's elections gave politicians a remarkably clear message: Slow growth or risk being turned out of office.
But in Maryland, where many counties have better tools for managing growth and road construction, voters have sent decidedly mixed signals. Even as the mayor of traffic-clogged Rockville was losing at the polls on Tuesday, the County Council that was elected along with Kramer last year was lifting limits on development in downtown Silver Spring.
In Virginia, "the voters spoke loud and clear," said Alexandria Mayor James P. Moran Jr. "They told the development community that they went too far too fast."
In Montgomery and some other Maryland counties, "no-growth doesn't sell," said Thomas B. Stone Jr., a Kramer adviser. "The difference over the past decade is that we've made the effort to balance the interests, to have some checks -- not willy-nilly approval of development."
The fallout from this week's elections may not be fully felt for years, but already some political and business leaders foresee some reshuffling in the region's future growth.
For instance, Prince George's County Executive Parris N. Glendening said the antigrowth sentiment in Northern Virginia may prove to be a windfall for his county, which has courted corporations for its vast tracts of undeveloped property near major transportation routes. Glendening, who attended a breakfast meeting yesterday with 250 business people at the Capital Centre, said, "A lot of people are looking to the county as they see a substantial slowdown elsewhere."
At the same time, Glendening added, the election results "send a strong message to us that the no-growth advocates will feel quite inspired."
Similarly, officials in Prince William County, who have long hoped for more commercial growth to balance their residential construction, said they believed developers would now find their county more attractive.
"We were going to get a certain market share," Prince William Supervisor G. Richard Pfitzner said. "What the election did was increase our share."
For many of the area's politicians, who lived through the sewer moratoriums of the mid-1970s that brought growth in suburban Maryland to a standstill, this week's elections are merely an echo of the past.
In Montgomery County in 1974, the race for county executive turned on growth issues, with Republican incumbent James P. Gleason handily beating Democratic challenger Idamae Garrott, who preached a slow-growth gospel.
One year later, in 1975, the race for the Fairfax board chairmanship also became a referendum on that county's growth, with Republican John F. Herrity -- the man Moore defeated this week -- capturing the seat held by environmentalist Jean Packard.
Then, as now, "it was the same issue," said Alexandria's Moran. "You could feel in the air that the political winds were changing, that we were ready for a major transition."
The key to Moore's success this week, according to many analysts, was what happened to Fairfax County in the years following Herrity's election. While all of Washington's suburbs boomed, Fairfax boomed the most, capturing about one-third of the entire region's commercial development since 1980. Moore's lopsided margin of victory, while attributable in part to Herrity's own image, was a more fundamental backlash against the unprecedented pace of growth that his board fostered.
"Jack should have been on top of it, and he wasn't," Martha Delaney, a seven-year county resident, said outside her polling place on Tuesday. "I think Audrey will be more careful about land use and planning."
If Herrity had a 16-year record on the board to defend this year, Kramer, a longtime state senator from Silver Spring, could not be held accountable in 1986 for Montgomery's frequent traffic jams. Thus, he was able to run a generally upbeat campaign, contrasting his moderate politics and personality with those of his rivals.
"Character remains the premier issue making up how people vote," said Lanny J. Davis, Kramer's campaign manager. "People do not want to stop growth; they're upset with the consequences of growth."
Montgomery County Council President Rose Crenca, who has known Moore for years and shares her slow-growth philosophy, said Moore's "unfortunate label as a no-growth fiend will make her work harder to have a balanced approach" on such issues in the future.
"I suspect Audrey is going to be the same Audrey she was, but she'll lessen the image as a no-growth addict," Crenca said. "Neither of us can say 'No growth,' but we can control it and plan ahead."