Hutchinson campaigns on name, hard work in 6th District race

July 27, 1990|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Baltimore County Bureau of The Sun

For most candidates, getting your name known is a key to winning.

For Leslie Hutchinson, a 28-year-old first-time candidate for state delegate in the 6th District, that shouldn't a problem. Her uncle, Donald P. Hutchinson, is a household name in the eastern Baltimore County district.

Mr. Hutchinson, a former state delegate, state senator and two-term county executive, is serving as chairman of his niece's campaign, a role he has filled by introducing her at fund-raisers and lobbying friends and associates for campaign contributions.

That could go a long way to helping her beat any of the three incumbents -- Democrats R. Terry Connelly, E. Farrell Maddox and Michael H. Weir -- all of whom are longtime associates of Mr. Hutchinson.

But whether it will be enough is a subject of debate that is intensifying with the approach of the Sept. 11 primary.

"Her name recognition accounts for something, sure. It's part of the game, but just how far does a name go?" asked Mr. Weir, 66, a masonry contractor first elected in 1974.

Ms. Hutchinson, who works in the county's legislative liaison office, said she has been involved in politics since she delivered fliers for her uncle in 1974. She has served as president of the Young Democrats of Maryland and spent the 1989 legislative session lobbying in Annapolis for the county.

"I think I've worked hard for everything I get," said Ms. Hutchinson, a county employee since 1986.

History is important in the 6th. This is a district in which candidates have been elected because of their family roots in Baltimore County politics.

Both Mr. Hutchinson and the current executive, Dennis F. Rasmussen, made their first runs for elective office from the 6th. Mr. Rasmussen, whose family also was active in Essex politics, was elected to the House in 1974. Mr. Hutchinson was elected to his first four-year term in theHouse in 1970.

"Families are important down here," said Mr. Weir, who was born in Highlandtown but moved to Essex when he was 4. "But people vote for the individual."

Mr. Hutchinson, who ran with Mr. Weir and Mr. Connelly in 1974, said he's made phone calls and written letters to some friends for his niece. That and the name recognition will help her get started, but winning the election is up to her, he said.

"She has to work hard, and she will work hard," he said.

Mr. Hutchinson said a major hurdle his niece faces is getting to the voters. With so many women working, campaigning door to door during office hours is often fruitless, he said.

"The biggest difference these days is the amount of money candidates have to raise," he said.

Each of the three incumbents haskicked in $10,000 to a general treasury, as have the district's incumbent state Sen. Michael J. Collins and County Councilman Norman W. Lauenstein, D-5th, who share the ticket.

That gives the five candidates a $50,000 treasury, and they will share expenses for a campaign headquarters, literature and advertising.

Each of the candidates also has his own treasury to supplement individual efforts. Mr. Maddox said he had an additional $17,000, Mr. Connelly $14,000 and Mr. Weir $29,500 in a joint account with Mr. Lauenstein.

In the mid-1970s, most tickets ran on budgets of about $15,000, Mr. Hutchinson said.

Ms. Hutchinson said she hopes to raise $22,000, compared to budgets of less than $10,000 for the othercandidates challenging the incumbents.

Diane DeCarlo, 44, the only other Democrat in the race, said she's gratified to see Leslie Hutchinson running, because she feels it will generate more voter interest, increase the turn-out and mean more votes for challengers like her.

Ms. DeCarlo, who ran unsuccessfully for the House in 1986, said she noticed that the incumbents seemed more anxious with Ms. Hutchinson in the race at a recent candidates night at the Rockaway Beach Fire Hall.

"They were careful. You could see they were taking things a lot more seriously," said Ms. DeCarlo, who operates a Middle River tavern and whose husband is a retired state trooper.

"When Leslie entered the race they got all shook up. I think they feel threatened by her," Ms. DeCarlo said.

The incumbents say having a Hutchinson in the race may push them to campaign harder, but they're confident she will not knock them out of office.

"If it was the kind of year where people were upset and there was a call for throwing everybody out of office, then I think her name would be a key," said Mr. Connelly, 44, a 12-year incumbent. "But I don't see that kind of attitude here."

The three candidates who survivethe Democratic primary will square off in November against Republicans Michael J. Davis, 51, an associate engineer for AT&T, Bruce A. Laing, 35, who operates an Essex tavern, and John Hillstrom, 51, a data processing consultant.

Despite rapid growth, Democrats still outnumber Republicans in the 6th by a ratio of almost 3-1. There are 26,222 Democrats in the 6th District, compared with 7,437 Republicans, according to the Baltimore County Board of Elections.

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