Exploiting fear is one of the cheapest tactics a public official can use. That hasn't stopped police chief Robert Russell from dramatically denouncing light rail as "a pipeline of evil." Or Council Chairman Edward Middlebrooks from predicting the whole county will turn into a den of iniquity if the rail line creeps southward.
Light rail has emerged as a convenient tool in what could end up being the nastiest race in the county -- the District 32 state Senate race. Mr. Middlebrooks, who just switched his party affiliation to the GOP, is expected to run against incumbent and Democratic Party leader Michael J. Wagner. That's fine; competition is healthy in any election, and Mr. Wagner has not faced an opponent in 12 years. But the way light rail is being used as a weapon against him is exploitative and dishonest. Mr. Wagner was and is a proponent of light rail. Now members of the Linthicum-Shipley Improvement Association are convinced light rail is ruining their community. Those who would like to see the powerful senator brought down smell an issue that just might do that. And regardless of who the opponent may be, politicians see advantages in pandering to fear of crime, the top issue on voters' minds.