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Who’s A Better Republican?

P. Kenneth Burns / WYPR

Policy wise, Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman and State Delegate Steve Schuh agree on most everything: cutting taxes and county fees, hiring more police officers and building new schools.

Neuman and Schuh are competing in the Republican primary for county executive to face Democrat George Johnson, the former county sheriff, in November.  Johnson is running unopposed.

Even though Neuman was appointed more than a year ago, some people still wonder where she came from.

The Baltimore City native moved to the county 22 years ago after an experience on a sailboat.

“I had never been on a boat,” she says, “I wanted to see what it was like and I called a friend and they called a friend and I was able to go out and do a sailboat race without any knowledge whatsoever of boats and I loved it.”

She worked in the private sector – T. Rowe Price and CAIS Internet – before turning a failing tech company into a multi-million dollar success story.  That company, Matrics, was later sold for $230 million.  She became the head of the Howard County Economic Development Authority in 2011.  Neuman says she felt called to public service after the 9/11 attacks.

"I've had quite a journey and I know that was only available to me, the opportunities were only available to me because I was born here," she says.

Neuman dropped out of high school, later earning her GED. She earned an MBA from Loyola University of Maryland without an undergrad degree in 2000. She also was raped when she was 18. It took Baltimore Police 20 years and DNA evidence to find her attacker. He eventually pleaded guilty to second-degree rape. Since then, she has become an advocate for rape victims.

Schuh, who grew up in Anne Arundel, is a two-term delegate representing the northeastern part of the county.  He plays up those roots while campaigning. 

“I’ve built businesses in this county; grew up in this county; raised kids in this county, educated in this county,” he told a voter in Severna Park recently.

He contrasts his roots with Neuman both professionally and politically.

“My opponent spent most of her career in Howard County, has served in Howard County Government; has never really had much involvement in Anne Arundel County,” Schuh told a voter. “She has never been involved in our political system, at all.  Has not volunteered for a campaign; has not contributed to a single Republican, only to Democrats.”

Neuman says people are tired of politicians.  She adds it’s not about whether you paid dues as a Republican; it’s about action.

“Checking boxes doesn’t make you a good community servant.  Doing good work for the community is what it’s all about,” she says

Neuman did very well in a March poll conducted by the Anne Arundel Community College Center for the Study of Local Issues.

“When putting Schuh and Neuman up against one another, we found her with a 14 point lead, but with small sample size; there are a lot of undecided,” says Dan Nataf, the center’s director.

Nataf says Schuh has a lot of money to reach undecided voters.

“He has campaigned numerous times, both for himself and for others.  He kind of knows the circuit,” he adds.