Montgomery County Democrats are hoping to make Stephen N. Abrams's position on gun control an issue in this fall's campaign for a seat on the school board.

Abrams, the chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Party, angered Democrats this spring when he sent a letter to several legislators opposing their efforts to enact a statewide ban on the sale of assault weapons. The letter said the legislators should have more important things to worry about than pushing for the ban.

Abrams is running for the Montgomery County Board of Education District 2 seat, representing Rockville and Potomac, against incumbent Walter Lange. But while school board races rarely center on state or national issues and are supposed to be nonpartisan, Democrats are starting to remind voters of Abrams's letter.

This week, Del. William A. Bronrott (D-Montgomery) cited the letter during a rally to protest Congress's decision not to renew the federal assault weapons ban.

"I think we need to ask ourselves: Is this the type of man we want on a school board?" Bronrott told the gathering of elected officials, police officers, surgeons and gun control advocates. "It is a sad irony that someone running for school board would oppose legislation that would continue the very important ban that protects families."

Abrams, who believes the ban should be a federal instead of a state issue, accused the Democrats of going after him because of his ties to the GOP.

"This is a concerted effort by the Democratic Party to go after me in the school board race," Abrams said. "I think it is amusing considering it is supposed to be a nonpartisan race. I suspect a lot of the stalwarts of the Democratic Party are having a difficult time" with his candidacy.

Shoveling Exemption Proposed

If County Council members Michael Knapp (D-Upcounty) and George L. Leventhal (D-At Large) have their way, residents who belong to a homeowners association may see more snow on neighborhood sidewalks this winter.

Knapp and Leventhal said the county's snow removal policy, which instructs residents and homeowners associations to clear sidewalks of snowfall within 24 hours, is costing some associations too much money.

They introduced an amendment Tuesday that would exempt homeowners associations from shoveling or plowing snow from common areas unless more than three inches falls. Homeowners would still have to remove any amount of accumulated snow from their sidewalks.

"It would basically limit what type of snow people have to utilize resources to remove," said Knapp, noting that it could eventually lead to lower homeowners association fees.

But several council members immediately indicated they were not likely to support the proposed change.

"It sends a very, very strong signal that this program is not going to continue, and I am very sorry we are going in this direction," said council member Nancy Floreen (D-At Large). "I think the pedestrian safety issue is major."

Labor Loves Perez, Leventhal

County Council members Tom Perez (D-Silver Spring) and Leventhal can rest easy about their standing with organized labor. Last week, the AFL-CIO's Metropolitan Washington Council hosted the two county leaders at a sandwiches-and-soft-drinks lunch to thank them for their support of Stephen G. White, a union organizer and cable technician at Comcast of Montgomery County.

Comcast fired White in March but reinstated him last month in a settlement worked out by the National Labor Relations Board. The case offered the AFL-CIO and the Communications Workers of America a rare victory in their struggle with Comcast, which has persuaded many workers to abandon their unions.

Leventhal said asking a politician to a thank-you lunch was an effective and welcome lobbying tactic. He added that Comcast, which sent subpoenas to both council members when it appeared that the White case would go to trial, had been silent, "not what I would advocate as a government-relations strategy."

Perez said he wished the company would devote the resources it applies to fighting unions toward better customer service and cited the pro-union movie "Norma Rae" in describing what he would do with future summonses from Comcast: "I'll wallpaper my walls with their subpoenas."

Joslyn N. Williams, president of the Metropolitan Washington Council, lauded Leventhal and Perez as "two giants of the Montgomery County Council" whose campaign commitments to support organized labor did not fall victim to post-election "amnesia" or "jelly knees." "We have no doubt that we'll always be there, wherever you go from here," he told the two council members.