'Four for 94' Republicans kick off State House race Quartet bands together to battle incumbent Democrats in 31st District PASADENA

June 18, 1993|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Staff Writer

Four 31st District Republicans with their eyes on the State House have banded together and thrown down the gauntlet for next year's race for the General Assembly.

The ticket -- which bills itself as "Four for 94" -- promises an aggressive campaign against the Democratic incumbents. The four contenders are Pasadena residents Joseph "Jack" Feehley, who is running for Senate, and Brian G. Brooks, John F. McGahagan III and James J. Riley, all candidates for the House of Delegates.

Along with the standard political rhetoric accusing the incumbents of political incompetence, the four have got some ideas that might start some spirited debate. Take one pushed primarily by Mr. McGahagan, 39, an algebra teacher at Chesapeake High School.

"I want to push for smaller school districts in Anne Arundel County with local school boards," Mr. McGahagan said. "We need the empowerment of the community to decide what type of curriculum, what type of principal they want."

The problem with the school system, Mr. McGahagan said, is that a group of people sitting in Annapolis cannot decide what is good for children in Pasadena, or Glen Burnie.

"The system has to become smaller and more autonomous," Mr. McGahagan said.

Under his plan, some functions, such as purchasing, would remain centralized to take advantage of economies of scale. But the school system would be divided into smaller districts handling no more than two high schools along with their feeder middle and elementary schools.

Each small school district would have its own board of five to seven members, with the power to decide how its schools are staffed and run. Not only would that bring greater accountability, Mr. McGahagan argues, but it would also eliminate unnecessary bureaucracy, a phenomenon that sticks in the craw of every good Republican, he said.

"All that bureaucracy, with the assistant to the assistant, the levels of bureaucracy that have nothing to do with teaching, will be eliminated," Mr. McGahagan said.

Of course, the challengers couldn't resist a few fusillades at the incumbents, who include Sen. Philip C. Jimeno and Dels. Joan Cadden, W. Ray Huff and Charles W. "Stokes" Kolodziejski.

"They're spending time arguing whether the state sport should be jousting or bowling. Who gives a damn?" said Mr. Riley, 57, a retired history teacher in the Baltimore City school system who has run for a House seat before. "This is such a trivial matter."

Mr. Feehley, 64, a retired developer and owner of a real estate company, said his focus will be on creating more jobs for Marylanders. During the recession, the numbers of people who are unemployed or are on welfare have risen too high, he said. "These numbers have to be brought down tremendously, and that won't happen without a viable economy," he said.

All agree that the size of government must be cut and that the state cannot rely on gimmicks such as Keno gambling to bail it out of financial troubles.

"Everybody's looking for the silver bullet that's going to save millions of dollars, and I don't think it exists," said Mr. Brooks, 39, who has worked as an economist and a corporate financial manager. Rather, government has to be managed better, he said, and most programs could be cut a bit for big overall savings.

A major challenge for the "Four for 94" is to erase the perception that voting Republican is throwing a vote away, especially in this heavily Democratic district. That may have been true in years past, but not now, they said.

"We see the Democrats in this district are vulnerable," Mr. Riley said. "We see we can win. That's why we're doing it."

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