In District 14b Delegate Race, Abortion Is The Central Issue 2 Democrats Battle Gop Incumbents

October 31, 1990|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Staff writer

In the District 14B delegate race, the Republican incumbents and Democrat challengers are battling it out over the abortion question.

Democrats Lloyd G. Knowles, 56, a former County Council member, and James B. Kraft, 41, a former county party chairman, say the state should remove all restrictions on Medicaid funding for abortions.

Abortion is legal in Maryland. A 1968 law that banned abortion -- except for cases of rape, genetic defect or potential harm to the mother -- was voided in 1973 by the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe vs. Wade decision.

State Medicaid will pay for abortions only in cases of rape, incest, genetic defect or potential damage to the physical or mental health of the mother.

Incumbent Republicans Robert L. Flanagan, 46, and Robert H. Kittleman, 64, oppose loosening Medicaid restrictions. However, Kittleman said, he and his running mate plan to sponsor "a simple, clean bill" that would make abortions legal up until the time the fetus is considered viable outside the womb.

But they said they believe the Medicaid funding restrictions should remain in place, and have voted that way. Both said they do not believe parental notification should be attached to any abortion legislation.

The Democrats have been hammering away at the two incumbents, who represent a district that includes western Columbia, Ellicott City, central Howard County and part of Montgomery County.

They are hoping the same pro-abortion rights sentiment that helped oust four anti-abortion senators in Baltimore, Montgomery and Prince George's counties might swing votes their way.

But Flanagan, a Columbia lawyer serving his first term in the State House, and Kittleman, a retired West Friendship engineer serving his second term, say their position is also pro-abortion rights.

Current state Medicaid law is "the most liberal in the country," said Flanagan. Both said that removing the restrictions would be costly and amount to abortion on demand.

But loosening restrictions would actually save money, say the challengers, who have picked up endorsements from several women's groups.

Finding medical reasons often delays abortions into the second trimester of pregnancy, when they cost more, Kraft says.

The National Abortion Rights Action League has not endorsed a delegate candidate in the district.

The challengers also question how effective the two GOP incumbents are in a Democrat-run state house.

Kraft says Kittleman has "introduced 157 bills in seven years and only two of them got passed. The guy is so busy down there selling the Republican party . . . that when he introduces a bill, it's dead."

Kittleman disputes those numbers, but admits, "I've never counted the number of bills that I've had passed." A favorite of his enacted bills, he says, prohibited lenders from penalizing borrowers who pay loans off early.

But the numbers aren't important to a reformer.

"Somebody has to be the challenger and raise the issues; but that's the function of the minority party," Kittleman says.

When issues such as campaign financing reform are raised, reluctant Democrats are often forced to act on them, Kittleman says.

Both Kraft and Knowles favor campaign financing reform, particularly limiting or abolishing contributions from political action committees.

All four candidates agree the state's gasoline tax will probably have to be raised from 5 to 10 cents to revive the state's transportation fund. But they differ on other taxes.

"I do not intend to vote for any other tax increase," says Flanagan, while Kittleman refuses to burn bridges. "You can't say, 'Read my lips,' " he says. "We could have problems we can't envision now."

Kraft says he favors a progressive state income tax, with a higher burden on higher-income earners. "From those who have much, much is expected," he says.

Knowles said he would like to see a report, due in December, by the governor's commission on tax structure before considering tax increases.

Although he is interested in the report, Knowles says he regards it as "just a set of recommendations" and nothing more.

A state delegate will be paid $27,000 a year starting in 1991.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.