The Maryland elections brought wholesale political change to the Washington suburbs, with at least two new county executives elected and Republicans making gains on the county councils and in the General Assembly.
No single issue seemed to account for the mood of suburban Maryland's 2 million residents. But frustration over growth, taxes, and some incumbents was significant enough to disrupt the political landscape and compel voters to demand a change in leadership.
Only one incumbent county executive, Democrat Parris N. Glendening of Prince George's County, sailed easily to victory, winning a third term in office.
In Montgomery County, veteran Democratic council member Neal Potter capitalized on voter discontent with growth to defeat incumbent Sidney Kramer, who lost in the primary and again as a write-in candidate in the general election. Howard County Executive Elizabeth Bobo was trailing Republican Charles Ecker in a race whose outcome hinges on absentee ballots that will be counted today.
And Republican Robert R. Neall, a former House of Delegates minority leader with a reputation as a fiscal manager, won the seat being vacated by Democrat James Lighthizer in Anne Arundel County, beating Theodore J. Sophocleus.
After a decade of growth that brought both rising property values and taxes, expanded economic opportunity and increased anxiety over transportation, schools and the environment, voters seemed to be demanding more control over their futures.
"I asked people how they felt being in the middle of a revolution," Montgomery County Planning Commission Chairman Gus Bauman said yesterday. "That seemed to be the mood . . . . They realized something fundamental had changed and they did not quite know what it would mean."
The immediate outcome is a crop of new faces leading Montgomery, Anne Arundel, and possibly Howard counties, and dashed chances for a group of now-ousted Democratic county executives who harbored hopes of running for governor.
The makeup of local elected bodies also will change, in part a reflection of surging Republican registration in the suburbs. In addition to Neall and Ecker, two Republicans will join the previously all-Democratic county councils in Montgomery and Anne Arundel, and a second Republican will be added to the five-member Howard council. In the region, the GOP also picked up one state Senate seat and a handful of spots in the House of Delegates.
Republicans also fared well elsewhere. In sprawling, suburban Baltimore County, Executive Dennis H. Rasmussen, a Democrat, lost to Republican Roger Hayden, marking the first time that office will be held by the GOP since Spiro T. Agnew's term in the 1960s.
And in a surprising rebuke to Democratic Gov. William Donald Schaefer, GOP gubernatorial candidate William S. Shepard won 40 percent of the vote, defeating Schaefer in 12 of Maryland's 23 counties.
At the same time, a highly publicized tax rebellion in the suburbs seemed to fizzle at the polls. Voters rejected property tax limits in Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties, and approved the least stringent of four proposals on the Montgomery ballot. The outcome, a surprise to many politicians, followed a campaign by teachers to tell voters that such legally binding limits could mean cuts in services.
If there was a theme to Tuesday's voting, said Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.), it was that voters viewed government as unresponsive, and vented their anger on the officials closest to them: the county leaders who oversee development, schools, transportation and other services.
"There has been tremendous unrest" among voters, Cardin said. County politicians "took the brunt of voter protest over the status quo," while seven of the state's eight incumbents in the House of Representatives were easily reelected.
Other analysts agreed that anxiety about local issues and politicians propelled the suburban turnabout.
Only in Prince George's did the status quo stay intact, in part because the county remains so heavily Democratic and the party establishment still largely controls the makeup of candidate slates.
Elsewhere, the trick to staying in office, or getting elected for the first time, turned on different factors.
In Anne Arundel, Neall positioned himself as a fiscal conservative whom voters could trust in tough economic times, a stance that left voters comfortable electing him while rejecting a tax limit proposal.
"They found that the way to send a message was not through the tax caps, which will cut services, but through electing politicians who they figure will find a way to provide services without raising taxes," said Eric M. Uslaner, a political science professor at the University of Maryland.
In Howard, meanwhile, growth was the dominant issue. Voters apparently felt Bobo, though an advocate of growth controls, had not acted forcefully enough on the issue and was seeking to curry favor with the development community. Ecker also appeared to capitalize on GOP registration gains in Howard.
Potter seized on the growth and tax issues in Montgomery, promising to find fairer ways to raise money for the county through possible levies on development and parking spaces, and contrasting his image as a populist problem-solver with Kramer's business background.
From Schaefer on down, incumbents seemed almost bewildered that so many constituents voted against them.
"I am sure there is something to be learned from this," Bobo said yesterday. "But I am not sure what yet."