Having just soundly defeated a well-known Carroll commissioner to win a state Senate seat, Larry E. Haines basked in the election night limelight like a prizefighter whose long months of preparation culminated in a knockout blow.
Former County Commissioner Jeff Griffith jabbed at Haines' conservativeness, lack of political experience and religious affiliation throughout the campaign, but the Republican weathered the flurry with confident composure.
Supporters embraced the victor at an impromptu Nov. 6 celebrationat Republican headquarters, showering him with applause and relishing his triumphant words.
It was the ego boost of a lifetime for the 52-year-old Westminster businessman, who spent his childhood and early professional life in the solitude of farming.
But the only new member of the county's six-person General Assembly delegation says hewon't be bursting on the Annapolis scene like a Muhammad Ali bent onconquering the legislature which begins Wednesday. He said he will approach the job as an inquisitive student, much the same way he learned the trades of dairy farming and real estate.
"As a freshman legislator, I don't want to move in too fast," said Haines recently as he prepared to leave his business, Haines Realty, for Annapolis. "I know I have a lot to learn. Even people who have been there a long timehave a lot to absorb."
The cautious, conservative approach seems appropriate for the man whose patriotic-style campaign centered around a conservative agenda, a promise to scrutinize government spending and taxation and a pledge that he would perform the job as a civic duty rather than a career.
It also conforms to General Assembly political wisdom, which cautions first-year representatives to listen, speak sparingly and avoid making waves. Haines recognizes he will be performing under a microscope, another reason to take a low-profile approach.
"When you're the new person, people supporting you will watch to see that you take care of their agenda, and the people who didn't support you will watch to see if you make mistakes. Everybody willbe watching Larry," said Greg Pecoraro, Carroll Democratic Central Committee chairman.
Haines will serve on the Senate Economic and Environmental Affairs Committee. A member of the Maryland Association of Realtors' legislative committee for the last four years, he said hebelieves his own business interests won't influence his decisions onmatters before the Senate committee. Some detractors have expressed concern about potential conflicts.
Haines said he may introduce several pieces of legislation this session, including bills to toughen penalties for criminals. He plans to push for more state money to preserve farmland, he said.
He emphasized in his campaign that he represents the "mainstream" views of Carroll residents. He espouses strong allegiance to family and community; supports business interests and property tax reforms; opposes abortion rights, except under extremecircumstances; opposes gun restrictions; and believes less government is the best government.
"I have no private or personal agenda I want to carry out," he said. "I certainly want to protect citizens against excessive taxation. I think my constituency will help direct myinitiatives."
Carroll voters didn't vault Haines into his prominent position because of his educational credentials -- he has a high school equivalency degree -- or public service record --it is his first elected office, though he has served on several government-appointed panels. But Haines, a Carroll native, has something that many bureaucrats and entrenched politicians, including Griffith, can't match --close identification with typical middle-class, tax-paying Carroll residents.
"People felt Larry Haines was somebody they could talk to very easily and somebody who understands their issues, feels the same way they do and takes the common-sense approach," said Joseph M. Getty, chairman of the Carroll Republican Central Committee.
Duringa pre-election debate, Haines described himself as a lifelong hard worker who respected those who worked hard for a living and as someonewho valued private-sector initiative and individual achievement.
"I've paid plenty of tax dollars, and I've yet to take one," he said."So, like most of you, I don't look for more taxes and more government spending as solutions for everything."
His political philosophystems partly from his own experience. He advanced from a career as a struggling farmer to a successful entrepreneur, and now, to state senator.
He dropped out of Mount Airy High School in the 11th gradeto work on his family's Winfield dairy farm, later earning an equivalency degree. At 20, he rented his own dairy farm in Hampstead, whichhe operated for about six years.
In 1966, he made the jump from working the land to selling it. John D. Meyer of Silver Run, a former farmer who later sold feed to Haines as a farming cooperative representative, invited his friend to join a new brokerage company he had formed.