Public's well-being is concern

June 09, 1994|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff Writer

Democratic candidates running for the Maryland legislature from Howard County addressed a range of pressing issues -- crime and prison crowding, education and economic development, health care and gun control -- at a Columbia Democratic Club forum last night.

"People are tired of being politically correct. They want what makes them feel secure," said Dick Mencken, a candidate for the House of Delegates in District 12A, which includes Elkridge and southwestern Baltimore County. Mr. Mencken, a deputy sheriff in Baltimore, advocated "a return to family values" by strengthening public safety.

While other candidates steered clear of the "politically correct" lingo, most did emphasize the need to ensure that criminals, especially those using guns, are required to serve stiff sentences, and that prison space be expanded to accommodate serious and repeat offenders.

"I no longer feel as safe as I once did," said Ethel Hill, a 25-year Columbia resident who is running for delegate in District 12B. "The problems of the city have overtaken us."

James Mundy, who is challenging Republican state Sen. Christopher J. McCabe in District 14, said prisoners must be educated while incarcerated and equipped with job skills if recidivism is to be reduced.

The Maryland General Assembly candidates from Districts 12, 13 and 14 also presented their credentials for the Sept. 13 primary to the audience of about 50.

Two candidates who boast long records of public service -- Sen. Thomas M. Yeager and Del. Virginia M. Thomas -- will be battling to represent the Democratic Party in the general election for the Senate seat in District 13.

Each played up his or her role during three terms in the General Assembly.

Mr. Yeager emphasized his knowledge of state operations and understanding of the intricacies of the state budget as a member of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee. He said the state needs a more aggressive approach to economic development, adding that a successful program could help pay for initiatives without raising taxes.

Ms. Thomas stressed her leadership role in health care and environmental legislation, and her efforts to obtain school construction money and address concerns that older schools aren't being treated fairly when it comes to financing. She said she wants to step up to the Senate to strengthen the district's representation.

"We need a delegation from District 13 [that] will really fight for you and make a difference, to show some clout and that they can get things done," she said.

District 13 includes east Columbia, Jessup, Savage, Guilford, Fulton and the Laurel area.

In the crowded delegate race for District 13A, currently represented by Ms. Thomas, candidates also emphasized their dedication to community service.

The district has only one delegate now but will have two next year because of redistricting.

"I have a proven record of leadership, working for every segment of this community," said Pearl Atkinson-Stewart, rattling off a list of her civic involvements.

Wanda Hurt stressed her work on citizens groups for the last three years, lobbying in Annapolis for legislation on health care, abortion rights, domestic violence and lead-paint poisoning.

Two-term County Councilwoman Shane Pendergrass reminded the audience that she became involved in local politics after learning that her daughter had taken a test on the floor of a crowded school, and later took an interest in land-use and growth-control issues.

Former Sen. Edward Kasemeyer, who is running for Senate in District 12, said cynicism about state government has become too prevalent, but not without some reason.

"We must do business differently," he said. "We have to get rid of petty regionalism. It gets in the way of progress."

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