In Severna Park, candidates repeat two words again and again this primary season: rain tax.
County Councilman Dick Ladd, a Republican who represents Severna Park, Arnold and Broadneck in the 5th District, is being targeted by six challengers, most of whom criticize him for voting for the county's stormwater fees, derided as the "rain tax" by opponents.
"People are worried about taxes. People don't like the rain tax that not only Dick Ladd voted for, but said he voted for with pleasure," said Republican challenger Joseph M. Campbell.
Ladd defends his vote, arguing the county is required to complete stormwater remediation projects to meet state and federal mandates, and the rain tax — or stormwater fee — is the best way to pay for them. He understands his vote was not popular but stands by it.
"It's a free shot. That's fine. I have to be big enough to stand up and take it, and that's fine. I think what we did is right," Ladd said.
Ladd said none of his challengers have offered a viable alternative for how to reduce pollution that harms local rivers and streams as well as the Chesapeake Bay. They simply want to eliminate the stormwater fees.
Ladd, an Army veteran and retired defense consultant, said he isn't bothered by the number of people trying to claim his seat. "You run for election knowing that there is accountability, and this is how accountability works," he said.
Ladd's opponents in the June 24 GOP primary include Campbell, a driving school owner and retired police sergeant from Millersville; Maureen Carr-York, a Severna Park community activist who lost to Ladd four years ago; Jack Norman Wilson Sr., a retired electrical contractor from Broadneck; and Michael Anthony Peroutka, a lawyer and constitutional activist from Pasadena.
In the Democrat primary, David Whitney, pastor of an Annapolis church, and Patrick Armstrong, a retail manager from Arnold, will square off to determine who advances.
Carr-York, a former nurse and attorney turned consultant, said she was lobbied by many people to run again. She said she tried to persuade Ladd not to support the stormwater fee.
"I've been most distressed about his tax increases. He voted for a lot of them after he said he never would," Carr-York said. "You can't just keep creating taxes every time there's a need."
Wilson said the stormwater fee is what put him "over the edge" and persuaded him to run. "I would be for repealing the tax. If not, I would like to see a cap put on the tax so they can't just run away with it," he said.
Peroutka, too, cites the stormwater fee as a top issue. A former Constitution Party member — he once ran for president — Peroutka believes the stormwater fee is effectively a tax on properties and thus violates the county's property tax cap. "I believe it's an end run around the tax cap," he said.
Whitney, also a former Constitution Party member, says the stormwater fee is also his biggest issue. "He was glad to impose this tax," Whitney said of Ladd. "The people need an alternative."
While most of the candidates in the district are opposed to the stormwater fee, Armstrong agrees with Ladd that it's important. "To me, it's the best thing we've done for the bay in decades," he said.
Armstrong said he's been focused on making sure Democratic primary voters know that he is a "true Democrat." He notes Whitney's history with the Constitution Party. "My goal is to make sure as many people know the difference between the two of us," said Armstrong, who ran unsuccessfully for the House of Delegates on the Eastern Shore when he attended Salisbury University.
Ladd also has been targeted by the local firefighters union, which is running an "Anybody But Ladd" campaign with signs and a website. The firefighters aren't openly supporting any one of Ladd's challengers, though.
Ladd says he may have some differences of opinion with the union but supports the needs of the Fire Department. "I've worked hard with the Fire Department to do what's right," he said.
In Crofton and the southern Anne Arundel communities that make up District 7, the next councilman will be determined in the primary election. Incumbent Republican Councilman Jerry Walker of Crofton is being challenged by Michelle Corkadel. No Democrats are running.