County Executive: Low-key Potter Trounces Kramer

When veteran County Council member Neal Potter decided to run at the last minute for the Democratic nomination for county executive in July 1990, few gave the low-key career economist much of a chance. And Potter was probably the most surprised when he narrowly upset incumbent Sidney Kramer in the primary. “He ran to make a statement,” one long-time political insider said of Potter. “It never occurred to him that he would win.”

The contest was another battle over the pace of the county’s growth, with Potter a long-time leader of the council’s slow-growth wing. But it also was a continuation of the warfare between rival party factions from 1986, when Kramer defeated then-council member David Scull for the county executive nomination. In 1990, the party faction that included Scull prevailed on Potter to take on Kramer.

Many thought Kramer was done in by complacency. But he was also vulnerable to charges that he governed in a high-handed manner. The abundance of ill will was evident at a post-primary “unity” gathering, when Kramer’s wife, Betty Mae, publicly lambasted Potter for what she called attacks on her husband and family. “For that, I will never forgive you,” she snarled at Potter. While Sidney Kramer mounted a general election write-in campaign to save his job, Potter easily won in November. But Potter, never comfortable in an executive role, declined to seek re-election in 1994 and instead returned to the council for a sixth term.

Pictured: Neal Potter