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Political newcomers facing off in general election for Garrett’s District 1

Crawford says he’s a fiscally conservative Republican; Robison says party affiliation not big factor in local races

Megan Miller
The Cumberland Times-News Sat Oct 09, 2010, 07:57 AM EDT

— OAKLAND — With all but one of the incumbent commissioners ousted in the September primary, the race for the District 1 seat is between two political newcomers, Democrat Eric Robison and Republican Gregan Crawford.

In their pre-primary campaigns the two took similar positions on several major local issues, including the possibility of school closures and the development of alternative energy projects such as wind power and Marcellus shale natural gas extraction. Professionally, both come from building backgrounds and operate their own businesses.

And the relationship between the two candidates is an amicable one even outside the public eye, according to Robison.

“Gregan’s a friend,” Robison said. “He’s a good guy, and I wish him the best.”

What sets them apart, Robison said, is leadership style and approach to difficult issues.

“I believe that I would be the best candidate, only because … my presence is strong, and when I need to be assertive, I’m assertive,” he said. “With some of the issues that are going on, we need to have someone who’s very assertive. We need to have someone who will stir the pot.”

Crawford, who toppled 24-year incumbent Ernie Gregg in the primary, also pointed to leadership style as the major difference between the two candidates.

“I think we’re both equally confident in our abilities, but I possess an adaptable mindset,” Crawford said. “I’m a good listener and extremely approachable. I have tremendous faith in the people of Garrett County and believe that the best ideas and solutions often come from the bottom up.”

Party affiliation is another significant difference between the two candidates, as Crawford pointed out, describing himself as a fiscally conservative Republican. Robison, a Democrat, faces an uphill battle in a county that’s typically a Republican stronghold.

But Robison said he’s gotten support from many Republicans throughout his campaign.

“In a small community, when we’re talking about local politics, it really doesn’t boil down to party as much as person,” Robison said.

As their campaigns progress, Both Robison and Crawford have delved more into ideas of how to reform county government in the future.

Crawford spoke about the possibility of improving public access to county meetings, using tools such as live Internet video broadcasts.

“We’re a large county,” Crawford said. “If you live in Finzel, you can’t run to the courthouse in the morning to hear a 15 minute discussion of a particular issue.”

Robison has proposed implementing two-term limits for county commissioners, setting the maximum length of service at eight years.

“This should be a full-time job that is rigorous,” he said. “At the end of eight years, if we’ve done it right, we should be exhausted and ready to go back to our normal lives.”

Contact Megan Miller at mmiller@times-news.com

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