IN MARYLAND as in the District of Columbia, voters came to the polls with brooms to take out their frustrations on certain incumbents around the state. The most notable ejection, that of Montgomery County Executive Sid Kramer in favor of Neal Potter, could change more than mere policy; Mr. Potter is talking about diminishing the role of the legislative branch, too, may change with its new size as well as its new members. The question here will be one of balance; even if Mr. Potter and all like-minded victors Tuesday were to decide that all growth anywhere in Montgomery must stop, the need for additional revenues wouldn't stop at all. That is why Mr. Potter is talking taxes -- different taxes, but nonetheless money that individual taxpayers will wind up paying even when it's a so-called tax on developers.
The danger to be avoided in all this can be seen at glance across the river in Fairfax County, where three years ago a quite similar low-tax-and-growth-to-match fever captured the voters and turned around the board of supervisors. When the new leaders there interpreted their electoral success as a mandate to go back and undo past approvals granted to businesses, only the threats of state legislators in Richmond restored some sense of fairness and balance.
If voters in Montgomery shook things up, their neighbors in Prince George's County seemed to find much more to appreciate in their local government, or perhaps much less to turn to in the field of opponents. At any rate, they, too, failed to march in lock-step behind candidates merely on the basis of race. Support of abortion rights did become a prerequisite for candidates up and down the Maryland ballots, however -- contributing to defeats of state senators with considerable seniority and influences on committees in Annapolis.
Coupled with three other vacancies created by incumbent senators who chose not to seek re-election, nearly 20 percent of the state senate membership will be new. That may reassure the abortion-rights organizations, but how the new class will vote on other matters could bring some surprises. Key House of Delegates members also were defeated, which, added to those not seeking reelection, may account for a turnover of nearly the same percentage in this body as in the senate.
While there may be some dramatic impact in all these upheavals, the grim financial constraints in the offing will likely temper any sharp swerves of policies and programs that may have been contemplated by the victors. State and local governments will no longer be able to just let the good times roll; the adjustments to hard times may produce still more realignments and coalitions, moved to moderate and balance policies in the name of fiscal prudence.