Nasty Game of One-upmanship

May 28, 1994

In the continuing game of one-upmanship between Democratic State Senators Janice Piccinini of Timonium and Paula Hollinger of Pikesville, the endorsement scoreboard reads as follows: One current two-term governor for Ms. Piccinini, one former two-term governor for Mrs. Hollinger.

It's a tie -- fittingly for a back-and-forth rivalry that hasn't been pleasant to watch the past few years, even by the standards of the political arena.

The bad blood between the two began with the legislative redistricting that shifted much of the Hollinger base into Piccinini territory. The result? One incumbent will run against the other in this year's 11th District primary. As an erstwhile Piccinini opponent remarked of the coming election, "I'd like to build a tower in Timonium and sell tickets."

Can it get that ugly? It already has. When the new districts were unveiled, Mrs. Hollinger cried foul. She claimed that Gov. William Donald Schaefer carved up her old district to get back at her and to help Ms. Piccinini, daughter of developer and Democratic fund-raiser Anthony Piccinini.

The Pikesville senator hinted that anti-Semitism also was behind the governor's action. That's preposterous. If the governor was getting back at Mrs. Hollinger, it was for political reasons -- for example, her vote against his 1993 budget and her alliance with Melvin A. Steinberg, Mr. Schaefer's estranged lieutenant governor. The governor got back again when he endorsed Ms. Piccinini last fall. Mrs. Hollinger won some revenge of sorts when former Gov. Harry Hughes announced this week that he was backing her.

While Mrs. Hollinger played to the crowd with her budget vote, Ms. Piccinini has indulged in demagogy, too, as when she fanned the fears of residents who opposed housing violent retarded patients at Rosewood State Hospital in Owings Mills, a key battleground of the new 11th.

The irony of the Piccinini-Hollinger competition is that both are liberals who often take similar stands on issues, such as abortion rights, gun control and the Baltimore needle-exchange program. Cynics, though, say the two women vote alike because neither wants to be outflanked by the other, the one-upmanship game ever paramount.

Much of this is inside-baseball for political junkies. In that sense, the rivalry has held some entertainment value. But how amused are voters of the 11th District, who have had a front-row seat for this nasty fight? We'll know this September, when the final tally in the Democratic primary is posted.

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