Saturday, December 10, 2005

Watson's surprise

Board of Education chief Courtney Watson, a Democrat, will not run for county executive, as some foolish people speculated, opting instead to go after the District 1 seat currently in the hands of Republican executive candidate Chris Merdon.

Watson, who won her first bid for elected office when she ran for the school board in 2002, said she decided that the District 1 seat in northeast Howard "was where I could make the most impact." The seat is held by Chairman Christopher J. Merdon, a Republican who wants to succeed County Executive James N. Robey.

This announcement is surely not too pleasing for the Republican candidate in this race, Tony Salazar, who no faces the unfortunate task of beating a well-known, well-regarded person, instead of some schlub foisted by Democrats into the race. Watson is a popular official in this county, and one from a well-connected political family. From the Sun:
Watson's decision to run for the District 1 seat held by Republican Christopher J. Merdon, also a candidate for county executive, continues her on a path followed decades ago by her father, Edward Cochran, former school board member, county councilman and county executive, who attended the announcement with about 75 other supporters and elected officials.
This announcement, of course, creates more questions than it answers--namely, why did she choose the council; does she have a chance to win; and what are the broader implications of her decision?

Ostensibly, her reason for staying away from the Merdon/Ulman/Dunbar slugfest was because the council "just felt like it was a better fit." She wants to do good things, and she believes she can do more on the council than as the executive. Moreover, her words portray an nonpartisan streak that may make her a uniter on the council, a board in need of some unity. Perhaps she didn't think she had a chance at beating Merdon or Ulman and wanted to assure a victory, but I'm willing to take her at her word.

Her father, however, thinks she could have aimed higher, saying she is "by far the most capable candidate for county executive."

On the other hand, Salazar isn't too concerned about facing Watson.
"I've always expected there will be a challenger, and I believe I will prevail. It's really a question of who is going to listen to the concerns of the community," Salazar said.
Does he have a reason to be scared, or is his confidence justified. From the archives of the Columbia Flier (an invaluable resource by the way) are the results from the 2002 race for the District 1 seat: Chris Merdon 12,245 votes, Lynne Bergling 6,325. Clearly, Watson has some ground to make up, but during the last election, Merdon was an incumbent, something he surely benefited from. One thing is for sure, her candidacy made this race and the election in general a lot more interested.

As far as the bigger picture goes, the above story from the Post does a good job of summing up the candidates in all the council races, as well as the main issue they will have to address, growth. Coupled with Watson's departure from the school board is that of Democrat Mary Kay Sigaty, who is attempting to win the council seat she lost to Ken Ulman in the 2002 primary. The impact of these vacancies on the school board is discussed here.

noticeably absent so far is speculation over District 2, currently the territory of David Rakes. Apparently, no one has yet announced a candidacy from either side, although Rakes has said he plans to run again but a primary is certain. Interesting.

So, what does all this mean? We could have three women on the council. We could have four Democrats (I'm not yet willing to say the same for the Republicans, who will have trouble winning four seats, in my opinion). Or, we could have something else that's equally surprising that I just can't think of right now.

I guess you'll just have to keep reading to find out more.

Note: The writing of this post was interrupted several times by family members who somehow think their concerns are more important than those of my readers. Wait, my family members are the only people who read this. Never mind.


Dave Wissing said...

I agree that Watson running for District 1 makes it tougher for Salazar. I do think Salazar will be helped by having Merdon at the top of the ticket, but Watson in the race makes this race much closer than it would have been without Watson.

Also, I have met the candidate who the Republcians are planning to put up in District 2, but he will not be announcing until the new year. They have settled on this candidate even though they knew Rakes was going to vote for Merdon last week, so I don't think they even thoght Rakes was going to switch parties. I will be interested to see if the Democrats put up someone against him.

Hayduke said...

I think you can be certain the Democrats will put somebody up against Rakes. The quote from the Dem chairman on your blog, Dave, makes that pretty clear.