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Anne Arundel: It’s About Taxes, Schools And Boats

P. Kenneth Burns

Democrat George Johnson, who is making a second run for Anne Arundel County Executive, and his Republican opponent, Delegate Steve Schuh, have something in common. They’ve made friends on both sides of the aisle during their years in public life.

But they have sharp differences when it comes to running Anne Arundel.

Schuh, a two-term delegate from Pasadena, wants to cut taxes and build more, smaller high schools.

“I believe the level of taxes and fees in this county and in the state are way too high and are making it hard for people to live here, to work here and start a business here,” he says.

He also says that the 2,000-student high schools the county has been building are just too big.

“Academic studies make it very clear that as schools get too large, academic performance goes down and after school opportunities for kids become less available,” he adds.

Johnson, who served as the county’s Sheriff from 1994-2006, says the timing for Schuh’s tax cutting and school building could not be worse and that the county needs an opportunity to recover from the recession.

“I just don’t know how both of them could possibly equate after we just came off of the worst economic time since the depression,” he said.

Johnson hasn’t promised to cut taxes, but he has pledged to not raise taxes or fees. And he says he will aggressively court new businesses through incentives and tax breaks.

“We’re going to do the type of things that create a business friendly environment for Anne Arundel County so that these new businesses, when they come, they provide jobs, jobs, jobs for our people,” he says.

Johnson and Schuh agree that Anne Arundel, with more than 500 miles of shoreline and only a few public boat ramps, should expand access to the water. But Schuh questions why Johnson hasn’t done anything about that in the eight years he’s been superintendent of the Maryland Natural Resources Police.

“[He could] advocate.  Go before the County Council.  Meet with the County Executive.  Come up with a plan,” Schuh suggests

Democrats hold a slight registration edge in Anne Arundel, but Dan Nataf, director of the Center for the Study of Local Issues at Anne Arundel Community College, says the result in this race could depend on turnout for gubernatorial candidates, Republican Larry Hogan and Democrat Anthony Brown.

Hogan is an Edgewater businessman and Brown could become the first African American governor of Maryland.

“If Hogan is the kind of hometown Anne Arundel candidate drives Republican voters beyond their normal numbers to show up; boom. That’s definitely going to help Steve Schuh,” Nataf said. “Conversely, if Anthony Brown drives African American turnout, well they wouldn’t not vote for George Johnson; he’s on the ballot as a D; why would they just not vote for that.”

Although there has been no independent polling, Nataf says it’s likely to be a tight race. Two of the last three county executive races were determined by less than 6,000 votes.