ROBERT K. HAINES has given his life to public education. A large man who speaks softly, he has been a teacher in the Carroll County and Baltimore County public schools for the last three decades. And he is so concerned about the future of public schools that he has gotten involved in one of the most heated contests in the state this year, the 5th Election District Senate race, where he is supporting a candidate who is running against his own brother.
Haines, 51, has endorsed J. Jeffrey Griffith, the Democratic nominee and a two-term county commissioner in his race against Larry E. Haines, 52, the Republican Senate nominee and real estate agent who is Robert Haines' brother.
"Blood is NOT thicker than water when it comes to the District 5 Senate race," Robert Haines wrote in a letter sent to seven newspapers.
"We can not afford to go back to square one with out representation in Annapolis," he added. "If we truly believe that our young people are our greatest natural resource then we had better invest in a senator who respects, believes in and supports public education."
Robert Haines wrote that his brother became "bored with education at age 16" and dropped out of school, though he later got a GED certificate to get into the real estate business. Robert Haines said his brother "does not understand the workings of public education" because the candidate's association was with Christian school education.
It is his brother's religious nature that appears to bother Robert Haines the most. He explained that his brother belongs to the Church of the Open Door in Westminster, which is far "more narrow" and rigid in its beliefs and exerts "tighter control" on the views its congregation than his own "fundamentalist" Bible church in Reisterstown.
"I believe he (brother Larry) would bring church beliefs to public policy," said Robert Haines the teacher. "I believe he would have difficulty in separating the two."
Opposing his brother hasn't been easy for Robert Haines. He made his own bumper sticker, "This Haines Supports Jeff Griffith." And the three lawn signs that he has put up Griffith seem to keep disappearing.
Robert Haines said he was sorry that abortion had become such a major part of the campaign, adding that if public education had succeeded better, it would not be an issue. He himself admits go dTC a pro-choice position that "will shock most of my friends."
The fight over abortion is key to the contest.
"This race has come down to the choice issue," said Griffith earlier this week as he showed off some television commercials slated for Carroll County cable TV. "Who chooses?" Griffith asks in the ads. "I trust you . . . my opponent wants to make abortion illegal. I want to keep government out of your life."
Virtually identical radio spots will also be used, Griffith said.
Carroll County may have a conservative image, said Griffith, but polling has found it "strongly pro-choice." Depending on how the question is asked, 70 percent of the electorate is pro-choice in one version, 55 percent in another.
A widely-circulated copy of a Catholic Review article after the September primary election quotes candidate Larry Haines as saying that although he is "pro-life," he would permit abortion in cases of rape and incest.
"We need to take that position to get into office," Larry Haines is quoted as saying. In the GOP primary, Haines defeated Sen. Sharon Hornberger, a mainstream Republican. Griffith says that he is getting support now from Hornberger.
Griffith contends that his election will make the Senate "filibuster-proof." Last March, 16 pro-life senators were able to filibuster for eight days to prevent a vote on an omnibus abortion bill drawn up by pro-choice legislators.
The numbers may not be that important in the coming session. Senate President Mike Miller has said that he will make an abortion bill a leadership matter to bring it to a vote. That means all senators with official ranks as well as all chairmen and vice-chairmen would have to support moves for a vote and against a filibuster.
Griffith said he received information that Ku Klux Klan members worked the polls for Haines during the primary. He suggested that the state's attorney's office or the press should look into that, as well as a recent KKK rally where hooded men were spotted handing out literature.
A mainstream Democrat, Griffith has been aided by political forays into Carroll County by Gov. William Donald Schaefer and by contributions totaling $7,500 from the governor's campaign funds.