Although Columbia attorney Guy L. Harriman Jr. touts the possibility of a strong revival for Maryland Republicans this election year, his campaign against two-term Democratic incumbent Thomas M. Yeager for the District 13 state senate seat is a classic example of how tough the competition often remains for the Republicans.
The party hopes to capture the delegate seat in the district, which includes Elkridge, Savage, North Laurel and the eastern half of Columbia.
But when it comes to his treasury, Harriman is running nearly on empty.
"It's a grass roots, shoe-leather campaign," said Harriman, 55. He estimates that his campaign has raised only about $10,000 and that he has spent nearly $12,000.
In September, just before an overwhelming primary victory against Michael McGonnigal, Yeager, 53, had amassed eight times what Harriman had raised in campaign contributions. Yeager last week would not volunteer information from the campaign finance report he and other candidates were required to file Friday, after press time.
Nevertheless, Harriman still believes he can out-knock his opponent, both on doors and the issues, to win the four-year job, which pays $27,000.
Harriman, a retired attorney for the Social Security Administration and the Health Care Financing Administration, said substantial cuts are needed to put the state's fiscal house in order.
"I've worked 30 years with the federal government and I know there's not an agency around that cannot take a 10 percent hit and not miss a heartbeat," he said.
But Yeager insists the state's financial picture is not as gloomy as some think.
He praised the governor's current $180 million budget-cutting efforts to stave off a budget deficit at the end of this fiscal year. "As a result of this, come June 30 there's not going to be a shortfall. The budget's going to be balanced."
The General Assembly's own budget adviser last week estimated the state's projected budget deficit at $322 million.
Nevertheless, when talking budget cuts, Yeager said he would favor selective, rather than across-the-board, cuts.
Harriman said he would support boosting funds for law enforcement programs and prisons.
"We may have to build another prison," he said, adding, "I'd like to see more boot camps for young offenders."
To improve education, Harriman says legislators should take a hard look at last year's Sondheim Commission report, which recommended rewards and sanctions for individual schools, and proposals by State School Superintendent Joseph Shilling, whose standards no school system in the state has reached.
On some key legislative issues the two candidates speak the same language.
On the abortion issue, which cost four anti-abortion senators their seats in the primary, Harriman and Yeager both said they believe the state should be in line with the Supreme Court's Roe vs. Wade decision. They both favor adoption of a state law that would continue to allow abortion up until the fetus is viable outside the womb, even if today's more conservative court overturns Roe.
However, Harriman stipulated that minors should be required to obtain the approval of a court or responsible adult, although not necessarily a parent or guardian.
Both candidates said they are not inclined to change the way the state pays for roads and schools. Yeager said he is concerned about the condition of the bare bones Highway Trust Fund, but did not suggest solutions.
On other issues, they differ.
Harriman favors limiting the term of office for all legislators to a total of 12 years and lumping terms as delegate and senator together, while Yeager said voters should decide who stays in office.
Yeager said he has worked extensively on campaign finance reform bills, including one passed by the Senate that would have limited political action committee contributions to $8,000 per candidate. The measure was not considered by the House of Delegates, he said, adding that he would have preferred a $5,000 or $6,000 limit.
Harriman said he would like to see a limit of $2,000, with PAC contributions limited to 25 percent of a candidate's contributions.
Harriman also criticized Yeager as being inaccessible to constituents, a complaint that Yeager dismissed.
Harriman said Yeager played no role during two of the district's hottest neighborhood battles in the past year -- the Route 108 Coalition's fight against the neighboring Rouse Co. Benson Business Center at Lark Brown Road, and opposition to a proposed truck stop on Interstate 95 at Gorman Road.
Route 108 Coalition spokeswoman Fawn Foerster agreed, calling Yeager "invisible." Harriman was described as "more involved" in helping the group.