The three candidates for Montgomery County executive -- the Democrat, the Republican and the write-in -- sounded their themes on taxes, growth and development for upcounty business leaders yesterday, and each had a different mission.
Neal Potter, the Democratic nominee, wanted to calm the Montgomery business community's jitters caused by his successful slow-growth campaign as a County Council member.
Albert Ceccone, the Republican candidate, hoped to convince the group that current problems are the result of one-party rule.
And, incumbent Sidney Kramer, deposed in the Democratic primary, argued that his unorthodox write-in candidacy is not sour grapes, but instead the business community's best hope.
"I would hope that on Nov. 6 that you could see fit to look at the records, not the rhetoric that is coming from each of the candidates," Kramer said.
Potter tried to mend fences. "I have never been anti-business, no way," Potter said, pledging his "unswerving support for the retention, expansion and stability of the businesses in Montgomery County." He argued that his positions have been distorted.
"I have said we need stability, that we need to curb our excesses, that we need to have a balanced growth," Potter said.
He didn't back down from his support of policies -- such as a tax on employee parking spaces -- that have raised the hackles of county employers. But he said a parking tax is only one of many options as the county looks for additional revenue. "I want to work with you," he said.
Potter also took some jabs at Kramer, noting that while the county executive prides himself as being a good manager, he announced the county's budget deficit, estimated at more than $40 million, a week after the primary.
Potter apparently went over better yesterday than he has with other business leaders. After one meeting with some of the county's largest employers, the head of one major firm fired off a letter to Gov. William Donald Schaefer protesting what he called Potter's anti-business attitudes.
Karl E. Bell, who moderated yesterday's forum, said Potter "said nothing that I think should make the business community nervous. I thought he did very well." Bell said the group of more than 100 businesses along the Interstate 270 corridor is nonpartisan.
Kramer, who largely had the backing of the business community in the primary, was a more familiar face to the public and private employers in the I-270 corridor.
He stressed his record in office and the 30 years he spent in the private sector, arguing that dire fiscal times demand someone of his experience and knowledge.
"I don't recall a cloudier picture on the horizon as it relates to our economy," Kramer said as he instructed the business leaders on how to write in his name Nov. 6.
Ceccone, a Chevy Chase businessman, lambasted the Democrats for a "spend more, tax more, spend more" philosophy. He chided business leaders for not seeking out Republican candidates like himself.
At one point, Ceccone called a group of business leaders who are backing Kramer "wimps." And, when discussing Democratic domination of state and county government, Ceccone alluded to "a clown in the statehouse" and "puppets in Montgomery County."