Ferguson readies GOP challenge in Senate District 4 Democrat Smelser is 26-year incumbent

June 17, 1993|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Staff Writer

A South Carroll Republican who plans to run against Democratic state Sen. Charles H. Smelser has a tough fight ahead of him, members of both parties say.

Timothy R. Ferguson, 38, an engineering consultant, said he will make his first run for public office against Mr. Smelser, who has held his seat for 26 years.

Mr. Ferguson, who lives in Taylorsville, said he knows what he'll have to do to unseat a popular senator with good name recognition.

"It will take a lot of work, nothing but work," he said.

"I think he understands he'll have an uphill battle running against Senator Smelser. Anyone would," said state Sen. Larry E. Haines, a Republican who represents District 5, which includes parts of Carroll and Baltimore counties.

"I'm not going to come out and endorse any candidate at this time, this early. But I'll certainly encourage him," Mr. Haines said. "He's a man of courage to step out into that race."

Mr. Ferguson worked as public relations director for Mr. Haines' 1990 Senate campaign.

Yesterday, Mr. Smelser said through a spokeswoman that he hasn't decided whether he'll run in 1994. But Mr. Haines and Gregory Pecoraro, chairman of the Carroll County Democratic Central Committee, said they expect him to run.

Mr. Smelser, 72, represents District 4, which includes parts of Carroll, Frederick and Howard counties. He is a member of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee and president of New Windsor State Bank.

The last time he had competition for his seat was in 1986.

Mr. Smelser will be more vulnerable in the next election because he had no competition in 1990, Mr. Ferguson said. Many young families have moved to southern Carroll and Frederick counties since 1986 "who have never heard the name Smelser," he said.

Mr. Ferguson has formed a campaign committee with an array of volunteers to handle outreach to various interest groups, scheduling and communications.

"If I didn't think it could be done, I wouldn't do it," he said.

Nancy Stocksdale, past chairwoman of the Carroll County Republican Central Committee, said she hasn't heard of other Republicans who may run for the seat. The central committee does not endorse candidates in the primary, but she said she's glad there will be a Republican on the ticket.

"I really feel there should be a Republican running for every slot," she said.

Mr. Ferguson also worked to elect Republican Roscoe G. Bartlett to the House of Representatives in 1992. In 1984 and 1988, he worked as a volunteer for the Reagan and Bush campaigns. He is past president of the South Carroll Republican Club.

He calls himself a conservative and said he wants to lower taxes, limit government spending and change the criminal justice system.

He opposes "Exit Outcomes," a controversial plan approved last month by the Carroll Board of Education that lists seven broad standards students should be able to meet as they go through school. The plan imposes "politically correct" education on children, he said.

Mr. Ferguson opposes estate and inheritance taxes, high impact fees, state control of agriculture preservation programs and state wetlands legislation.

He said he wants judges in criminal cases to be allowed to impose a death sentence on a person convicted of murdering a police officer and on a person convicted more than once of murder, rape or a non-family kidnapping.

He opposes gun control and is a member of the National Rifle Association.

Mr. Ferguson and Mr. Smelser share some of the same views, Mr. Haines said. "His views fit in very well in the 4th District," he said.

Mr. Pecoraro agreed that the incumbent reflects the views of district residents.

"Senator Smelser is a conservative in the truest sense of the word. He's reflected the values and concerns of the people in his district, which is not to say he's been a right-wing lunatic," Mr. Pecoraro said.

Mr. Ferguson does not pose a threat to Mr. Smelser, he added.

"I don't think this guy is going to give Charlie Smelser any problems," Mr. Pecoraro said.

Mr. Ferguson is self-employed and currently doing consulting work for Aquidneck Data Co., a Rhode Island company working for IBM in Rockville.

He is a native of Middle River, Baltimore County. He has been married to the former Tina Smith for 11 years and has two sons -- Timothy, 7, and Jacob, 4. They are members of the Mount Airy Full Gospel Church.

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