Most residents of Montgomery County say that the outcome of the race for county executive will have little effect on county affairs, according to a recent Washington Post poll.
Although the campaign has become increasingly intense as the Sept. 11 primary election approaches, nearly six out of 10 county residents agreed that "regardless of who is elected the next county executive, nothing really is going to change in Montgomery County."
The poll also suggests that neither incumbent Sidney Kramer nor challenger Neal Potter has emerged in voters' minds as the clear favorite.
Among 303 self-described registered Democrats surveyed about the county executive's race, Kramer held a 35 percent to 29 percent lead over veteran County Council member Potter, while 36 percent of those surveyed had yet to make a choice. The margin of sampling error for this portion of the poll is plus or minus six percentage points.
The poll shows that many county residents still do not have strong impressions of Potter or Kramer -- a problem that Kramer is likely to try to overcome with television advertising in the remaining two weeks of the race.
Kramer has raised about $243,000, much of it from development and business interests, while Potter has raised about $32,000, not enough to mount a significant television presence in the expensive Washington market.
In a county where Democrats hold nearly a 3 to 2 registration edge and control nearly all the levers of local government, the winner of the Democratic primary will be a heavy favorite to become the next executive.
The role of developers in Montgomery politics has been a recurring argument in the campaign -- with Potter questioning their generous contributions to Kramer, and Kramer countering that Potter has participated in most of the major development decisions in the county during the past two decades of growth.
"I'm concerned," Potter said, "about the immense advertising budget Mr. Kramer has with the immense contributions from real estate interests. That's been our concern all along, to be adequate against a massive paid campaign."
According to the poll, most county residents are concerned about how growth will affect the county's future. They said that county government has the primary responsibility for setting growth and tax policies, but they also said that people such as themselves have too little say in local politics. Nearly eight out of 10 said they think that real estate developers have too much influence on the political process.
While many surveyed are concerned about the problems associated with growth, the poll showed that most residents think the county is a good place to live and gave high ratings to a variety of county services -- points that Kramer supporters are expected to use to their advantage.
Kramer, a millionaire businessman and former state senator who is seeking a second term as executive, and Potter, who has served a record 20 years on the County Council, said they were not surprised by the results, particularly the high percentage of undecided voters.
"We have functions and people just don't go to them," said Kramer, 65. "We've had several debates, Mr. Potter and I, and the crowds are noticeably small. It's an indicator that people don't really focus in on the race until the last two weeks."