Redistricting turns political friends into bitter rivals vying for new turf

September 14, 1992|By Robert A. Erlandson | Robert A. Erlandson,Staff Writer

Paula C. Hollinger and Janice Piccinini, liberal Democratic senators and feisty campaigners, might still have been friends -- in another context.

But the cruel world of politics has set them at each other's throats and, according to one of their General Assembly colleagues, "It's going to be a war between those two . . . a knockdown, drag-out fight."

Why?

Because the two incumbents want the same thing: the Senate seat up for grabs in 1994 in the new 11th District, which sprawls across northern and western Baltimore County. The women have been thrown together by the redrawing of district lines mandated by population changes in the 1990 census. While the primary election is two years off, they're campaigning as fiercely as if it were next month.

Publicly and privately, they're trading charges that political machinations went into the creation of their new 104,000-voter district, one of the state's largest.

"They don't have [outside] jobs, so the two of them have nothing else to do but beat on each other," said a delegate who requested anonymity because he still has to work with both women in Annapolis.

Their current vehicle is this November's abortion-rights referendum. They both support abortion rights, and they're working to get out the vote in favor of the measure.

Ms. Piccinini will begin a series of door-to-door Campaign for Choice marches Tuesday afternoon from the Timber Grove Elementary School in Owings Mills -- an area that will be a major political battleground.

Ms. Hollinger, a 14-year General Assembly veteran, says her freshman rival is "running scared. . . . She's out pounding on doors and running to editors. I've never run scared."

"I'm not running scared of anything," Ms. Piccinini replies. "This started the day after the [1990] election, going door-to-door and standing on corners . . . I'm covering the whole district."

While each senator's supporters predict victory for their candidate, other politicians say the race is a tossup. It will depend largely on how well each senator can do with voters who might normally support the other.

Ms. Hollinger, a 52-year-old nurse who has specialized in health issues during two terms in the House and six years in the Senate, now represents the 11th District, a heavily Jewish area that includes most of Pikesville and Randallstown.

But she lost Randallstown in a realignment that created a new majority-black House district, and part of Pikesville to the 42nd District, which now crosses the city-county border.

While she faces new, unfamiliar and more conservative voters in the northern, central and western areas, many of her former constituents have moved to the Owings Mills area, which is in her new district.

Ms. Piccinini, 47, former president of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County and the Maryland State Teachers Association, rode an abortion-rights platform to victory in 1990 when she defeated veteran Sen. Francis X. Kelly, leader of an anti-abortion filibuster in the Senate. She has long been a champion of education issues.

Her current 10th District includes most of the north-central and northwestern parts of the county. In the redistricting process, she lost the district's most rural northern and western precincts. That gives her a more Democratic and less conservative district than she had, but one with many longtime Hollinger supporters in Owings Mills and Pikesville.

Ironically, Ms. Hollinger was a co-sponsor of the abortion-rights bill that Mr. Kelly filibustered, and she was one of the people who urged Ms. Piccinini to run her ultimately successful abortion-rights campaign in 1990.

But now Ms. Piccinini says, "The relationship is very strained."

Aside from squabbles over the makeup of the new district, the major issue that will separate the candidates is their votes on budget and taxes. Ms. Piccinini voted for the 1993 budget and tax package that bailed the state out of its most serious budget crisis -- at least temporarily.

In a delegation fearful of an anti-tax movement that swept many incumbents from office in 1990, hers was the only Baltimore County vote in the Senate for the measure. For the first time in her career, Ms. Hollinger voted against a budget package because it contained "unrealistic [revenue] projections," she said.

"To me, it was irresponsible," she said. "Being a social progressive doesn't mean you waste money. There was no plan for what government must fund; you've got to decide spending priorities."

Ms. Piccinini said she has no qualms about the vote.

"I had no trouble spreading the sales-tax base," mainly to include luxury items, she added. Ms. Piccinini said she has distributed 36,500 copies of an eight-page newsletter with a front-page editorial explaining her vote for the budget and said, "I have had no negative reaction."

"The new district," she said, "is 70 percent Democratic. It's a progressive district. It believes in changing the state tax structure, and it believes in the function and purpose of government."

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