Montgomery County executive candidate Neal Potter's first attempt to convince some of the county's leading employers that he is not anti-business apparently backfired.
Four days after an Oct. 4 meeting between Potter and business leaders, the president of one company fired off a letter to Gov. William Donald Schaefer (D) complaining about the Democratic nominee's business policies.
"The companies attending this meeting represented the biggest and the best that Maryland has to offer. They are discouraged and bewildered by Mr. Potter's positions, and seek assurances that support for business vitality and growth in the state of Maryland, and specifically in Montgomery County, is alive and well," wrote Mercade A. Cramer Jr., president of the Vitro Corp. in Silver Spring.
Potter -- who upset business-backed County Executive Sidney Kramer in the Democratic primary and is now confronted with a feisty write-in campaign by Kramer -- expressed disappointment.
"I have tried to do some outreach and understanding, apparently in this case it didn't work," said Potter.
However, he also expressed skepticism about the motives behind the letter, noting it was leaked to
the media rather than sent to him. He called it a "campaign piece" and said he suspected supporters of Kramer's write-in bid were responsible.
Kramer said any suggestion he was involved in the letter or its release was "insulting" and that Potter has only himself to blame if he has alienated business leaders.
"I would not have antagonized these corporate entities in the way Mr. Potter has," said Kramer, arguing that Potter's support for such policies as a tax on employee parking spaces and curtailment of the county's economic development efforts are good reasons for the business world to fear him.
Vitro's Cramer, whose company employs about 3,000 workers, said he was not present at the meeting with Potter, which included officials from the Marriott Corp., Martin Marietta Corp., Sovran Bank and others.
But, he said, the report he received from his representative "was so overwhelmingly negative" that he felt compelled to write directly to Schaefer. Cramer said he knew that other officials at the meeting shared his concerns.
One participant, who asked not to be named, said, "There was a consensus and the consensus was one of great disappointment."
A Marriott spokesman said the company had no comment, while a spokesman for IBM said the views expressed by Cramer don't necessarily reflect the views of IBM.
Members of the county's business and development community were solidly behind Kramer in the Sept. 11 primary, and in fact, were thought by some to be a liability in a county worried about overdevelopment. Kramer's defeat and then reentry into the race as a write-in have left business leaders torn.
Some, who see Potter as an overwhelming favorite over Republican nominee Albert Ceccone in next month's general election, have advocated trying to reach an accommodation with him, while others are quietly trying to line up resources behind Kramer's write-in bid.
"They did lose the campaign," said council member Bruce T. Adams. "I wouldn't expect they would turn around and completely endorse the Potter agenda." He praised Potter for trying to reach out to business, and called Cramer's letter "tacky."
Schaefer has no comment on the letter until he learns more about it, said his executive assistant, Daryl Plevy. The pro-business governor backed Kramer in the primary, but endorsed nominee Potter and asked Kramer to drop his write-in plans.
Staff writer Richard Tapscott contributed to this report.