In what may be the lowest-key race in Howard County, incumbent district 4B delegate Donald B. Elliott, a 59-year-old pharmacist from New Windsor, faces a virtually self-financed campaign by William Henley Sr., a 72-year-old retired electrical appliance merchant from Mt. Airy.
The district encompasses the western tip of Howard and southwestern Carroll County.
"What little bit of financing (I am doing) I'm doing myself," said Henley, a Democrat. "I'm not spending all that much money."
Henley, who unsuccessfully sought the same delegate seat in 1982, is using the same campaign signs and other paraphernalia that he used eight years ago. Henley said his only expense in the current race is a little over $1,000 for brochures.
Elliott, a first-term Republican, has spent $7,423 so far on the campaign, according to the state Board of Elections.
The candidates have faced off in several public forums this fall, but the race itself has failed to spark much controversy.
The exception is the abortion issue, where the candidates differ dramatically.
With the Supreme Court recently opening the door for states to decide the thorny issue of abortion, the views of the candidates have become critical. In the last legislative session Elliott co-sponsored a bill, later defeated, that would prohibit abortion except in the cases of rape, incest or a threat to the pregnant woman's life.
Elliott's expressed goal is "to save as many unborn as possible."
However, he feels that abortion should not be the overriding issue.
"I do not believe that this issue should be a litmus test," Elliott said, "It stands on an equal plane with others."
Elliott's abortion position is diametrically opposed to Henley's.
The challenger, who adheres to the U.S. Supreme Court's 18-year-old Roe vs. Wade decision, said: "I'm pro-choice. If they want to do it, that's their choice." Henley said he believes that the issue of abortion will be dealt with again in the 1991 session: "Abortion is going to be settled (next) year, no question about it."
Both Elliott and Henley agree that the condition of the state's economy ranks high in importance. With an estimated $322 million dollar deficit predicted for fiscal year 1991, the legislature will have to deal with the possibility of either increased taxes or budget cutbacks.
Where Elliott is unequivocal toward the prospect of new taxes -- "I'm against any tax increase," he said -- Henley has a more compromising platform. "I hate taxes; let's keep them down. But there are times when we have to raise taxes." He declined to say if now would be an appropriate time for a tax hike.
Asked about proposals for campaign reform, Henley echoed the familiar wish for a cap on political action committee contributions. He also said he favors limiting legislative terms, an idea which has shown some popularity in other states. "Two terms -- that's it," he said.
Elliott has suggested two campaign reforms of his own. The first would eliminate lobbyist-sponsored fund raisers for candidates. He would also forbid candidates from transferring campaign funds to other candidates.
"Individuals give you money because of your campaign," Elliott said.
As a member of the environmental matters committee, Elliott has some specific directions that he would like to see the state take. "I think we have to work a bit harder in solid waste matter and recycling," he said.
Elliott cites the state's present recycling of solid waste at 20 percent; he would like to see that figure rise to 30 percent.
Henley's proposal to improve Maryland's environment is a "greening" of the state. It involves planting trees where others have been removed and planning bike trails for a greater appreciation for nature.
Henley's reason for running against Elliott is a perceived low-key approach the delegate has had in his tenure in the State House. "Let me put it this way," Henley said, "He's enjoyed four years as a delegate. I don't see where he's accomplished anything."
Elliott noted that he sponsored successful bills to strengthen the financial position and quality of care in health maintenance organizations and to help nursing homes' insurance coverage.