LOCAL GOVERNMENT in Montgomery County has a way of working exceptionally well -- with no certified rascals to rout, no cause for a political upheaval. Yet voters in September did make a few statements about the management of their county, including a rejection in the Democratic primary of the incumbent county executive, Sidney Kramer, in favor of Neal Potter. After a brief stint as the gracious loser, Mr. Kramer turned on Mr. Potter in a most unbecoming way and announced a write-in effort. Though we favored Mr. Kramer in the primary, Mr. Potter has earned the inside track for election. Mr. Kramer is, of course, free to go his way, asking for another flip of the coin; and he does continue to enjoy support from business and labor groups that have been comfortable throughout his administration and that are anxious about Mr. Potter's views on growth. There are some Democrats, too, who failed to rally for Mr. Kramer last time, and still other voters who may have wanted to send him a message but not his walking papers. Mr. Potter has been trying to make overtures to these groups, which is good. His only official challenger is Republican Albert Ceccone, a veteran of six other runs for public office whose views today seem as muddled as they have been before. If there is uncertainty about Mr. Potter's skills as an administrator, there is respect for his knowledge of county government. The best vote in this round would be one to look ahead, not back, and to let Mr. Potter have a turn at bat.
The elections for a newly constituted and larger county council offer voters some opportunities to recruit fresh competence for a legislative body that will now have four at-large members and five members elected from districts. For the at-large seats, the Democrats offer the best team: incumbents Bruce Adams, Isaiah Leggett and Michael Subin and new nominee Gail Ewing. They are not think-alikes, but can work together well and with expertise and are far more in tune with county affairs than are their four Republican opponents. But this Democratic dominance does not automatically extend to the other contests. On the contrary, there is good reason for voters to break the Democrats' 20-year lock.
In District 1, Republican Betty Ann Krahnke has run a strong campaign against Democrat Marilyn Goldwater, a former state legislator. Mrs. Goldwater has a solid knowledge of state and federal issues that served her well in Annapolis. But Mrs. Krahnke, a member of the Connie Morella school of Montgomery GOP civic service, has a superior grasp of the county issues and council process, stemming from her intelligent service on the planning board and various school and countywide organizations.
In District 2, another Republican, Nancy Dacek, a close political ally of Mrs. Krahnke, brings to her contest the same kind of valuable local public service experience and advocacy of sensible growth and improved services. Her Democratic opponent is Vickie York, who has never held elective office and who has been unable to articulate her approaches to the sophisticated degree that Mrs. Dacek has.
In District 3, Democratic incumbent William Hanna is challenged by independent Stephen Abrams, a U.S. Agriculture Department administrator and a former Rockville City Council member with considerable local civic experience. Mr. Abrams has shown himself to be a worthy candidate, but he is up against a hard-working lawmaker whose knowledge and broad perspective have made him an especially valuable contributor to council deliberations. Mr. Hanna's expertise on affordable housing, reasonable growth and job development -- along with his independence when it's time to vote -- should not be lost.
In District 4, two well-known figures -- Democrat Marilyn Praisner and Republican Carol Wallace -- are running against each other as they did on opposing school board slates eight years ago. Mrs. Praisner was on the ticket that defeated a team that included the late Marian Greenblatt as well as Mrs. Wallace. Both candidates today offer solid knowledge of the civic landscape and the issues. But Mrs. Praisner's keen sense of political moderation and of the relationships of state, local and federal agencies makes her the best choice.
In District 5, Democrat Derick Berlage, captured his nomination with a grasp of the issues, and he has continued to do homework in this second round. His Republican opponent, Joan Ennis, is a longtime civic activist whose support for a ballot question restricting property tax revenues and whose opposition to a proposed light rail line between Bethesda and Silver Spring should not be vote-getters. Mr. Berlage approaches issues with an open mind, good questions and a useful independence.