County Council Election: The “County Above Party” Campaign

One veteran political observer calls it the “great granddaddy” of contentious campaigns in Montgomery County: the 1962 battle for the then-seven member County Council. It followed a nearly fourfold increase in county population—to 341,000 in 1960—and pitted older residents against newer arrivals on issues ranging from local growth to civil rights.

Days before the election, a coalition of conservatives and business interests—billing itself as “County Above Party” or CAP—mailed a political flier disguised as a newspaper to county homes. Targeting a tax increase approved by the Democratic-controlled council to address needs created by the county’s mushrooming growth, the flier also contained thinly veiled racial and ethnic references. This was in the wake of the council’s passage of the county’s first open accommodations law in early 1962, which resulted partly from public demonstrations against the racial segregation policies of the then-privately owned Glen Echo Amusement Park.

The late Stanley Frosh of Bethesda, who supported the law, was among those targeted. “I remember there was a caricature of my father with a big hook nose. It was at least subtly anti-Semitic,” recalls Frosh’s son, current Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh. The flier contributed to the ouster of five council Democrats who had supported the law—including Stanley Frosh. In came the “Diggs Council”—so dubbed for its chairwoman, Katherine Diggs— and a 5-2 Republican majority. That council considered repealing the law, but rejected the idea in September 1963, following a debate that drew national attention.

Photo: The new County Council at its swearing-in ceremony in December 1962 as shown in a photo published in The Evening Star. Via the Montgomery County Historical Society