Voters few but voices loud

September 12, 1990|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,Evening Sun Staff

Despite their small numbers, primary voters sent loud messages as they put out of office as many as seven state senators and nine delegates while propelling Gov. William Donald Schaefer and embattled Rep. Roy P. Dyson to large victories in their races for renomination.

When the dust settled today from an election marred somewhat by a turnout of only about 30 percent and a vote-counting glitch in Baltimore, abortion-rights activists boasted about their success at cementing solid majorities for their side in both houses of the General Assembly.

Their biggest victory belonged to former teachers union director Janice Piccinini who knocked off Sen. Francis X. Kelly, D-Balto. Co., a leader of the anti-abortion contingent in Annapolis.

Among the losers were the Montgomery County executive and two Baltimore County Council members, who were caught in backlashes over, respectively, galloping development and rising property assessments.

A surprisingly big winner was Dyson, who had been considered vulnerable because of a string of controversies, the latest coming after he disclosed that he had been granted conscientious objector status during the Vietnam War. Dyson today turned his attention to November, when he will have a rematch with Republican Wayne Gilchrest, whom he defeated two years ago.

Dyson defeated Del. Barbara O. Kreamer, D-Harford, by a surprisingly hardy 54-32 percent margin. Gilchrest beat seven challengers, taking 28 percent of the vote.

Dyson's seven colleagues from Maryland in the House as well as the three statewide candidates all won easy nomination to run again in November.

Cruising toward a second term, Schaefer will face former foreign service officer William S. Shepard, the Republican victor over Ross Z. Pierpont, who lost his 11th consecutive bid for public office. Shepard won mainly by his 2-to-1 margin in Montgomery County, where the most Republican ballots were cast.

Schaefer easily defeated gun-rights advocate Frederick M. Griisser for the Democratic nomination, carrying every county in the state.

State Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein crushed self-employed contractor Kenneth N. Frederick to gain the Democratic nomination for a record ninth term in office. Frederick ran an almost invisible campaign, which he dedicated to the memory of his daughter, who ran against Goldstein in 1986 and who since died in a car accident. Challenging Goldstein in the fall will be Larry Epstein, a Baltimore County accountant, who won the Republican primary over funeral establishment owner Marshall W. Jones Jr.

Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. was unchallenged and will face off in November against Towson attorney Edward Blanton.

Schaefer, whose victory was never doubted by his own supporters, spent much of the campaign stumping for other candidates -- with mixed results.

In the Montgomery County executive race, County Councilman Neal Potter upset incumbent Sidney Kramer in the Democratic primary, despite Kramer's large edge in campaign spending and his strong support from Schaefer. The vote was seen, in part, as a backlash to the booming development that has tied up roads and jammed classrooms in much of the county.

In another show of dissatisfaction with local incumbents, Baltimore County Councilmen Dale T. Volz and Norman W. Lauenstein lost as their opponents rode a wave of taxpayers' resentment over soaring property tax assessments.

Yesterday's biggest changes will be seen in the state Senate. Four years ago, no incumbent senator lost an election; yesterday six were defeated, several by large margins. In the process, abortion-rights advocates cemented a majority that appears large enough to stop any future filibusters on the issue.

In Baltimore County, 12-year veteran Kelly was overwhelmed by Piccinini in a race that both sides said hinged on the abortion issue. Kelly was a leader of the eight-day filibuster in the Senate this year and Piccinini made access to abortion a cornerstone of her campaign.

"I can't overemphasize the importance of the choice issue," Piccinini said. "There are other issues, but this galvanized the people."

"We're tired of listening to the General Assembly debate this into a filibuster," said Steven Rivelis, head of Choice PAC, an abortion-rights group that pumped money into several campaigns. "There will be no more shenanigans, no more dirty tricks. From here on out, we're going to make sure abortion remains safe and legal in the state of Maryland."

In Montgomery County, two longtime Democratic incumbents, Sen. S. Frank Shore and Sen. Margaret C. Schweinhaut, lost in races tinged by the abortion issue. Abortion-rights supporter Del. Mary R. Boergers easily defeated Shore, while Del. Patricia R. Sher defeated Schweinhaut, 85, who was seeking her ninth term in the Senate.

Both Shore and Schweinhaut were members of the group of 16 senators who participated in the filibuster.

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