Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Guzzone gone

Wow. I certainly didn't see this coming.

The Howard County Council elected its first Republican chairman in seven years, in a 3 to 2 vote last night that saw one Democrat switch allegiance and throw his support to the GOP.

With the help of Democrat David A. Rakes (D-East Columbia), council member Christopher J. Merdon (R-Northeast County) assumed the one-year chairmanship, ousting the incumbent.

"David voted for me because he trusts me," said Merdon, who is the leading candidate for the Republican nomination for county executive in 2006. "He felt that I would respect him and make sure all members are heard."

I'm not even sure what to say about this. I mean, we've all known that Rakes is a bit of a loose cannon--which can be a good and a bad thing--but this move is just strange, especially since it seems he is seeking reelection, presumably as a Democrat. However, responding to the news last night, Howard Democratic chairman Wendy Fielder said, he "ended his career tonight with the Democratic Party."

Maybe he's switching sides, which would be more foolish than shrewd in his heavily Democratic district. I don't know, I'm just throwing out ideas here.

So, needless to say, Guzzone didn't sound to happy about the changing of the guard. Well, really he didn't sound like much, having apparently little to say on the matter.

"It's unusual for a member to defect from his party," Guzzone said. He added that he thought Rakes was retaliating after Guzzone and fellow Democrat Ken Ulman (West Columbia) did not rise to Rakes's defense during the probe by the county's ethics commission. The Maryland state prosecutor is also said to be looking into the matter.

I don't think, however, this will have much of an impact on Guzzone's political future. I think he's got a very good chance of winning the delegate seat for District 13 and Rakes' "unusual" vote might even garner him some sympathy.

The real question is what impact, if any, this will have on the race for county executive. Merdon has been given center stage, which can be a blessing and curse. He's been able to stay on the sidelines and protest a lot of what the democrats have done on the council. Now, he's going to have to get his hands dirty, something he hasn't been fond of doing in the past (instead wishing to usually straddle both sides of an issue).

Another question for Merdon is how his new affiliation with Rakes will affect voters' perception of him. Rakes isn't exactly the most likeable guy (possible ethics violations, weird and ill-informed votes on important issues) and Merdon would be wise to use his new allay cautiously. I'm sure the democrats on the council have been biting their tongue on Rakes for a while, and we may now start hearing more about the man.

It is still too early to tell what's going to happen. But this certainly made things a whole lot more interesting.


Dave Wissing said...

I agree. WOW!

I am kicking myself right about now since I almost attended last night's meeting (I only live 5 minutes from the County Building). I was interested in seeing the vote on the smoking ban go down last night, but this would have been much more interesting to see.

Definietly a boost for Merdon heading into the election year in my opinion.

Hayduke said...

I agree that it's a boost for Merdon, but with this elevated position comes elevated scrutiny. However, whatever way you slice it, this isn't a good thing for the Democrats.

It's too bad we both missed the meeting. Action like this only comes around so often.

Dave Wissing said...

I just talked to one of my good friends who is on the HoCo GOP Central Committee and he told me that this move has actually been in the works since October, but wasn't made public until last night. In fact, he was telling me there was some campaign event for Rick Bowers, who is running for the House of Delegates and all of the Central Committee in attendance left early so that they would be at the council meeting right before the vote for Merdon happened. Apparently they didn't even let anyone else at the campaign event know what was happening so that the secret wouldn't be let out until the actual vote.


The Stuffed Tiger said...

Quite a development! I will be very interested to see how this affects the Ulman/Merdon battle. I think Merdon might be too abrasive and, well, Republican to win, but this is certainly one way to do it.


Hayduke said...

Tiger, are you sure you don't mean Ulman will be too abrasive to win? That's the rub on him, whereas Merdon generally tries to avoid feather ruffling, or at least that's how it appears to me.