Motorcycling delegate seeking Winegrad seat

January 07, 1994|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff Writer

An early favorite to replace the Maryland Senate's leading environmentalist is more likely to wear motorcycle boots than earth shoes.

State Del. John Astle -- a moderate Democrat, reserve colonel in the Marines, helicopter pilot and Harley Davidson owner -- announced yesterday that he will run for Gerald Winegrad's District 30 Senate seat.

Mr. Astle has been a popular politician since he was first elected in 1982, receiving the most votes of any District 30 candidate in the last two elections.

"It's time to grow a little bit and seek a new challenge," said Mr. Astle, who is nearing the end of his third term in the House of Delegates.

Mr. Astle, a West Virginia native, said he believes he would bring more "breadth and depth" to the Senate than Mr. Winegrad has.

"In the past, while we've gotten some incredibly good things done on environmental issues, there's been a lack of balance," he said.

A potential rival, County Councilwoman Virginia Clagett, a West River Democrat, attended Mr. Astle's early-morning announcement at the Middleton Tavern. However, she could not be reached for comment later in the day.

Ms. Clagett, who has championed agricultural preservation and controls on rubble landfills, said nine months ago that she planned to run for the seat and carry on Mr. Winegrad's environmental tradition.

Although she has not endorsed Mr. Astle's bid, he said he believes that she now is considering a run for his open House seat. Mrs. Clagett cannot run for a fifth term on the County Council because of a two-term limit passed by voters in November 1992.

Mr. Winegrad, who is credited with banning phosphates from the Chesapeake Bay and creating a wildlife preservation fund, said last May he was weary of legislative politics.

Mr. Astle, who in the mid 1980s helped to repeal laws barring certain retail businesses from opening on Sundays, said he would work to better the business climate in the state.

"I'm not sure the General Assembly has really looked at the place business occupies in the scheme of things," Mr. Astle said.

"Government can only create the climate for new jobs; only business can create jobs," he said.

Mr. Astle has angered some constituents because he did not oppose construction of the 80-foot high bridge to carry Route 450 across the Severn River. He and the other District 30 lawmakers said the opposition came too late to make a difference.

He did, however, work during the fall with the other lawmakers and Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins to block state funding of a planned expansion of the County Detention Center on Jennifer Road.

Mr. Astle said that he would provide leadership for the Democratic Party in District 30 that he said has been lacking during Mr. Winegrad's tenure.

"Gerry sort of works in a vacuum," Mr. Astle said. "We're not always party to what he's doing."

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