Pendergrass vote record is weighed

March 14, 1994|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Sun Staff Writer

Shane Pendergrass, a two-term County Council member, comes into a crowded House of Delegates race carrying perhaps more name recognition than the rest of the field combined. But she's also carrying a more visible target -- her record.

Ms. Pendergrass, a Democrat, says her record of the past eight years -- during which the council handled everything from growth control to comprehensive rezoning to school construction to severely restricted budgets -- could be a "plus and a minus" in her bid for one of two District 13A seats.

"Sure, my name recognition will be a help. But that's not all it takes to win an election," says Ms. Pendergrass, who moved to Columbia from Savage in 1989. "That also comes with making hard decisions on the council. Some might not be as happy with me, but on the other hand, I'm predictable."

Ms. Pendergrass says she doesn't consider herself a front-runner in the Democratic primary but rather one of five contenders in a "complicated race. I'm not the least bit complacent," she says. "I'm taking it very seriously."

Other challengers acknowledge that Ms. Pendergrass' entry last week -- which had been expected for some time -- will make the race more competitive and increase campaign workloads.

But they aren't conceding anything, saying Ms. Pendergrass will have to defend her record.

"She's not an incumbent for the seat. You can't treat a challenger as an incumbent," says candidate Wanda Hurt, adding that all five Democratic candidates are from Columbia and have their own group of supporters.

"People in the community will have the opportunity to evaluate what she's done or didn't do," says candidate Frank S. Turner, a business law professor at Morgan State University. "You want to look to see how effective [an elected official] has been, or are they taking up time and space."

Democratic Del. Virginia M. Thomas, the only incumbent in the newly redrawn two-member district, has not announced her political intentions but says she's "looking very seriously" at running for the Senate seat occupied by Thomas M. Yeager, D-13.

The change in legislative boundaries has placed Del. Martin G. Madden, R-13B, in District 13A, which includes east Columbia, Highland, Scaggsville, Fulton, Savage and Guilford. Mr. Madden says he won't decide on his plans until after the General Assembly session ends in April.

He says he "always expected to have an uphill race" because of the boundary changes, which added heavily Democratic precincts in Columbia. "I think [Ms. Pendergrass'] entrance ensures I'll have an uphill race."

Other District 13A candidates are Democrats Pearl Atkinson Stewart and Robert Ardinger, Republican Michael Grasso and independent Arthur Reynolds.

Ms. Pendergrass, 43, who chaired the council for three years, became involved in politics in 1985 as a parent concerned that her daughter, Cayley, had to sit on the floor to take a test because of overcrowding at the old Whiskey Bottom Road Elementary School. The watercolor artist and former teacher became active in the local PTA and the Savage Community Association before running for council in 1986.

She says she has worked hard to acquire financing and find sites for new schools, to control growth and to build consensus among diverse groups. She says she's running for delegate because it came time to seek a new challenge.

"Being in the position of power I've been in for eight years has been ideal. We've accomplished good things," says Ms. Pendergrass, the council's representative on the Maryland Association of Counties' legislative committee.

"The impact I can have on the county in Annapolis is just as important," she says. "With my knowledge of the county and how state government affects county government, particularly issues of funding, I think I could be a very effective legislator."

She says the state must seek changes in the judicial system, strengthen gun control measures and work toward reforms in health care and welfare. She acknowledges she still has much to learn about such matters, which aren't routine County Council issues.

"I've had a chance to learn how complex problems really are," she says. "There are not 'yes' and 'no' problems. They have consequences that are hard to understand sometimes."

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