Ex-Gov. Hughes endorses Hollinger in heated 11th District Senate race CAMPAIGN 1994 -- MARYLAND SENATE

May 26, 1994|By Patrick Gilbert | Patrick Gilbert,Sun Staff Writer

He isn't the nominal head of the state Democratic Party, he doesn't hold public office anymore, and a lot of people didn't recognize him at first.

But state Sen. Paula C. Hollinger couldn't have been more pleased with the endorsement she got Tuesday night from former Gov. Harry R. Hughes.

Support from Maryland's last governor, Mrs. Hollinger implied, will do more for her campaign than the endorsement Gov. William Donald Schaefer gave her opponent, Sen. Janice Piccinini, in a bitter battle of Baltimore County incumbents thrown together by redistricting.

"Governor Hughes is still widely liked and respected," said Mrs. Hollinger at her campaign fund-raiser at Martin's West. "People still remember that he let the legislature set policy, that you could be against him on an issue one minute and he would be with you on another issue the next minute, that he served the state with grace and dignity."

Though Mr. Schaefer is one of the most successful politicians in Maryland history, he is a lame-duck governor whose popularity is on the wane and who has made enemies with his temper and occasional bullying tactics.

Mrs. Hollinger and Ms. Piccinini, two liberal Democrats and both fierce campaigners, were thrown together by a Schaefer-backed redistricting plan that combined portions of the old 10th and 11th districts.

When Mr. Hughes was introduced, there was a murmur of surprise from the crowd of 500, many of whom hadn't noticed his presence. Now practicing law in Baltimore, Mr. Hughes praised Mrs. Hollinger for her hard work, tenacity and passion on important issues.

"She might be one of the shortest legislators in Annapolis," Mr. Hughes said of the diminutive senator, "but when it comes to action and compassion, she's the tallest around."

Afterward, Mr. Hughes said he had worked longer with and was closer to Mrs. Hollinger than Ms. Piccinini.

"Paula has more experience, and I think has better instincts," he said.

Ms. Piccinini said she wouldn't comment on Mr. Hughes' endorsement. "The only endorsements I'm seeking and the only ones I'm focusing on are those of the voters," she said.

In an unusual move for the nominal head of the Democratic

Party, Mr. Schaefer broke with the traditional neutrality and endorsed Ms. Piccinini at a fund-raiser she held in October.

Aides to Mr. Schaefer said he appreciated Ms. Piccinini's vote for his embattled 1992 budget and tax package as well as her support for his redistricting plan and a variety of crime bills.

In addition, Mr. Schaefer has a long-standing friendship with Ms. Piccinini's father, Anthony Piccinini, a developer and longtime Democratic fund-raiser.

Senator Hollinger voted against Mr. Schaefer's budget, fought the redistricting plan and challenged it in court. She is also allied with Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg, who, like Ms. Hollinger, is from Pikesville and who has been feuding with Mr. Schaefer for two years.

The Schaefer redistricting plan broke up the old 11th District and its politically cohesive Jewish neighborhoods in Pikesville and Randallstown.

Most of Randallstown was placed in the a new black-dominated 10th District, while part of Pikesville was gobbled up by the city-based 42nd District. That left Mrs. Hollinger and Ms. Piccinini to battle it out in the new 11th District, a more rural, conservative area that covers the rest of northwestern Baltimore County.

Since then they've been waging a fierce door-to-door campaign, centering on the fast-growing Owings Mills area, where many of Mrs. Hollinger's traditional constituents have moved in recent years.

"I've been getting a lot of positive response going door-to-door, and I'm confident we will take this one," said Mrs. Hollinger, a 53-year-old nurse who has specialized in health care issues during eight years in the House and six years in the Senate.

Ms. Piccinini, 48, former president of the Maryland State Teachers Association and Teachers Association of Baltimore County, rode an abortion-rights platform to victory in 1990 when she defeated veteran Sen. Francis X. Kelly, leader of an anti-abortion filibuster in the Senate.

Other prominent Democrats on the state and local level are staying neutral in the race. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Mileler Jr., a Prince George's County Democrat, showed up at the Hollinger fund-raiser but had kind words for both.

"They're both hard-working legislators, but which one to send back to Annapolis is up to the voters in the district to decide," he said.

"There's nothing to be gained by taking sides on this one," said Kevin Kamenetz, county Democratic Party chief and candidate for the 2nd District County Council seat.

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