Former delegate to challenge Bromwell for Senate

May 09, 1994|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Sun Staff Writer

Former Del. Donna M. Felling, who edged Dale Anderson out of the General Assembly in 1986, said she will buck the odds again and run against Thomas L. Bromwell, the county state Senate delegation chairman, in the Democratic primary.

Mr. Bromwell, 45, of Fullerton, a 16-year legislator from Northeastern Baltimore County's 8th District, was expecting a tough fight in 1994 from Republicans eager to expand on their 1990 successes.

Del. John J. Bishop, a moderate Republican whose Parkville neighborhood was redistricted into Mr. Bromwell's area, has long planned a Senate race.

But now Mr. Bromwell will face a potentially bruising fight against Ms. Felling of Cub Hill, who won a legislative seat in 1986 with an energetic, independent campaign against Mr. Anderson, a former county executive.

She joined the Bromwell-led ticket in 1990, only to lose her seat in the anti-incumbent landslide in which County Executive Dennis F. Rasmussen and five County Council members -- all Democrats -- also were ousted.

Some observers believe a primary fight will weaken Mr. Bromwell even if he wins, by forcing him to spend more money and energy before the general election campaign.

"I planned on running a primary election with or without opposition," Mr. Bromwell said, noting that he has a $22-a-ticket bull roast May 21 at the Timonium Fairgrounds.

"We learned a lesson last time. I'm going to knock on more doors."

Mr. Bromwell, who won a narrow victory in 1990, said the political climate is different in 1994. For one thing, the property tax assessment issue that fueled voter anger in 1990 has cooled, he said.

"We've had our rebellion in Baltimore County," he said. "Lots of us who won got the message."

Ms. Felling said she also got the message, and she's ready for a comeback in the Senate campaign.

"I've been thinking about it for nine months," said Ms. Felling, 44. She said she prepared by attending several workshops for female candidates at the University of Maryland. A formal announcement and filing will come June 3, she said, when she plans a fund-raiser at Boordy Vineyards on Long Green Pike.

Felling, who is a nurse with a master's degree in public health and operates a small health-related business in Hunt Valley, plans to stress her expertise in health care as she tries to convince voters that "our district is in need of changes."

In 1986, she came in third among those seeking three delegate seats in the district, defeating Mr. Anderson by 500 votes. He had won the seat, and a measure of redemption, in 1982 after serving time in a federal prison for conspiracy, extortion and income tax evasion while he was county executive.

Ms. Felling said the general anti-incumbent feeling in 1990 made the party ticket led by Mr. Bromwell a liability. "Last time I was buried in a ticket that did not come out and work aggressively," she said.

She came in fifth in the delegate race with 13,006 votes, while Mr. Bromwell won re-election to the Senate with 15,710 votes, 2,424 more than former Democratic Del. William Rush, who became a Republican for the race.

Republicans Alfred W. Redmer Jr. and James F. Ports Jr., who won delegate seats in the district, said they believe this is a time for more Republican gains in the county. Ms. Felling's decision to run indicates Mr. Bromwell may be vulnerable, they said.

However, legislative district lines were changed after the 1990 census. In the redistricting, the Democrat-controlled legislature dropped Republican sections in the district's northern reaches and picked up the heavily Democratic Hillendale area, part of Parkville and a corner of Northeast Baltimore.

Mr. Bishop, who represents Towson's 9th District, plans a formal announcement June 1, also at Boordy Vineyards. He welcomed Ms. Felling's entry against Mr. Bromwell.

"I think it's great that he has a primary," he said. "It will make it even more difficult for him."

Mr. Bishop said he does not plan a negative campaign in the general election.

"I'll run on my record," he said.

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