Morgan seeks a second House term

May 29, 1994|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Sun Staff Writer

Undaunted by Democrat-controlled redistricting that fractured his conservative voter base along the U.S. 1 corridor, Republican state Del. John S. Morgan announced his candidacy for a second term last week.

Mr. Morgan, 30, is likely to face a challenge from one of two Democrats in the Nov. 8 general election. Former Laurel mayor Joseph Robison, 61, is planning to announce his candidacy next month, and John Gianetti Jr., 30, a student at the University of Maryland Law School, announced his bid in April.

So far, no Republicans have indicated plans to challenge Mr. Morgan in the Sept. 13 primary.

"In the old District 13B, there's no question that we would have gotten re-elected easily," Mr. Morgan said as he sipped a cup of decaffeinated coffee at Laurel's Tastee Diner. "So obviously redistricting makes our job more difficult."

But it's no longer "our" job.

Mr. Morgan's Republican partner in upsetting two Democratic incumbents in 1990, Del. Martin G. Madden, is now in a different district, 13A. Mr. Madden's district includes parts of southern Howard County friendly to conservatives, but it is dominated by a solidly liberal east Columbia voter base.

Mr. Morgan fared slightly better: His new District 13B is the city of Laurel and its unincorporated Howard suburb, North Laurel.

Instead of being dominated by Howard County voters, it will be controlled by Prince George's voters. That can be a problem for a candidate from the wrong county, because the county is prominently displayed on the ballot.

That problem was solved when Mr. Morgan moved from North Laurel to Laurel Lakes, which is well south of the border.

As for the problem of the district having three registered Democrats for every two Republicans, Mr. Morgan is optimistic.

"It's basically working-class Reagan Democrats, which is the kind of people that elected me and Marty back in 1990," he said.

But Mr. Robison disagrees with the Reagan Democrat characterization of Laurel voters.

"I wouldn't cuss at them like that. That's calling them a bad name," said Mr. Robison, who considers his former constituency "notoriously independent" ever since it sued Prince George's for tax revenues in 1887.

Mr. Morgan said one of the advantages of the Laurel area is its size.

"Since it's a single-member district, you are able to walk every street, talk to everybody," he said. Without doing that, he said, he could not expect to return to Annapolis next year.

It was in walking the streets that Mr. Morgan learned how strongly some residents feel about Laurel's current controversy, the proposed Redskins stadium.

"I had one day where I had half a dozen people challenge me on the issue: 'Where are you on the stadium?' I'm opposed to it."

But he also has a list of stadium issues to be addressed, traffic chief among them.

"A lot of the traffic that's going to service the stadium is going to go through residential neighborhoods," said Mr. Morgan, who claims to be "the first elected official to come out against the stadium."

The stadium is fourth on his list of issues, however.

No. 1 is political reform, most recently embodied in an ethics bill that Mr. Morgan and Mr. Madden sponsored.

With the overwhelming support of the Howard County delegation, the measure requiring that rezoning petitioners list their campaign contributions to county Zoning Board members passed the General Assembly but was vetoed by the governor last week.

Mr. Morgan plans to introduce a stronger measure next year and to continue pushing for an amendment to the state constitution that would allow citizens to create policy themselves through ballot initiatives.

Mr. Morgan said the initiative amendment is popular among members of United We Stand, America, a group of independent voters formed by 1992 presidential candidate Ross Perot.

The group is believed to be influential in Laurel, where more than 15 percent of voters are registered as independents.

The second item on Mr. Morgan's agenda is crime, and in particular the reform of the state's juvenile justice system.

"The system was built for the juvenile offender of the 1950s. Now you have a bunch of killers out there who just happen to be under the age of 18," he said. "If they were in the adult system, they'd be locked up by now."

One of the major adjustments for Mr. Morgan in focusing his attention on the city of Laurel is the electorate's interest in education.

"In Laurel, the biggest issue after the stadium is Laurel High School," a magnet school that suffers from academic and disciplinary problems, he said.

He believes that the state contribution to the magnet program in Prince George's County could be tied to a requirement that students be transferred out of the program if they fail to meet academic and disciplinary standards.

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