Law student enters race for State House

May 03, 1994|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,Sun Staff Writer

John Giannetti Jr. smiles as he tells of how he became one of the youngest corporate managers in the Phillips Seafood Restaurants chain, and how he started a graphics business with friend at the age of 25.

Now, the 30-year-old law student from Prince George's County is poised to take on another challenge: a campaign for the House of Delegates seat in the district that includes North Laurel.

Mr. Giannetti, a Democrat, announced his candidacy last week to represent District 13B, which straddles Howard and Prince George's counties.

He is expected to face incumbent Republican Del. John Morgan of Laurel, a well-known political figure in the North Laurel area, and former Laurel Mayor Joseph Robison, a Democrat.

As of yesterday, Mr. Giannetti was the only candidate who had officially filed for the District 13B seat. Mr. Robison said yesterday that he plans to file next week, and Mr. Morgan said yesterday that he would join the race in the next month or so.

All three candidates live in Prince George's County, but all say they believe Howard County is a very important part of their constituency.

Mr. Giannetti is confident, although he has never run for public office and is a relative unknown in the Laurel area.

"The more I talk to the voters, the more I believe I can win this election," Mr. Giannetti said. "I think the chances are very good, much higher than 50-50."

The Laurel City resident is a Maryland native reared in the Berwyn Heights area of Prince George's County.

He wants to start courts that would deal specifically with drug offenses, and supports electronically monitored home detention for nonviolent drug offenders. His intention is to increase neighborhood safety.

He wants to increase tax revenues by attracting and keeping businesses in the state. And he wants to require firms that perform services for the government, such as highway contractors, to give warranties and repair their own work for 10 years.

"My message sells well to a John Morgan crowd," Mr. Giannetti said of the Republican incumbent. "I'm for fiscal responsibility."

Mr. Giannetti's political ideals and aspirations grew out of his parents' participation in government.

At the age of 5, Mr. Giannetti traveled door-to-door in Berwyn Heights as his father, John Giannetti Sr., now of College Park, campaigned successfully for a seat on the town's council. In 1978, the elder Mr. Giannetti ran for the Maryland Democratic Central Committee and won an at-large seat.

And Mr. Giannetti's mother, Gail Cross, now of Eldersburg, was appointed a judge in Carroll County's Orphans Court in the 1980s. She later ran unsuccessfully for the Carroll County Register of Wills against a longtime incumbent.

In 1987, inspired by his family's involvement in politics, Mr. Giannetti decided to forego his ambition to become a medical doctor and enrolled in the University of Maryland Law School, from which he will receive his Juris Doctorate this spring.

Since enrolling in law school, he became the marketing director for the Phillips Seafood Restaurants in the Baltimore-Washington area, at age 23, and started a marketing and graphics company in Laurel, called Arthur Alexander & Associates, with his partner Richard Barney.

A member of the Columbia Democratic Club, Mr. Giannetti said he has a good chance of winning the primary because Prince George's County is his home and because of his knowledge of Howard County.

But the incumbent, Mr. Morgan, challenges Mr. Giannetti's claim to a strong Howard County connection.

"I don't think [Mr. Giannetti or Mr. Robison] know Howard County," said Mr. Morgan, who said that Howard County has 30 to 35 percent of the voters in District 13B.

But Mr. Giannetti said that among many Howard County voters, "there's a concern that they're going to be forgotten. I'm not going to forget about Howard County."

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