Former top state aide enters crowded county executive race CAMPAIGN 1994

June 24, 1994|By Sun staff writer John Rivera compiled this report

Robert D. Agee, who was a top aide to former County Executive O. James Lighthizer, filed yesterday to join a growing Democratic field for the county's top elective post.

He joins Annapolis security consultant William Brill, former state Sen. and County Councilman H. Erle Schafer, state Del. Theodore J. Sophocleus and Cpl. Larry Walker, a county police officer, on the Sept. 13 Democratic primary ballot for county executive.

Mr. Agee, 46, a vice president at Chaney Enterprises, a gravel and concrete company based in Southern Maryland, said crime, education, governmental restructuring and finances will be key issues in the campaign. He said he plans to release detailed positions on each during the summer campaign.

"I firmly believe that the next four years are going to be some very, very difficult years" because of the cap placed on property tax revenues by voters in a 1992 referendum, Mr. Agee said.

"I'm not afraid of managing in a time of scarce resources," he said. "I've done it in the private sector in a time when we've gone through some very difficult economic times. And I think it can help you think and work more creatively."

Mr. Agee said a county must deliver its core services, which he identifies as education and maintaining public health and safety, "in a quality manner every day. There has to be reliability, consistency and high quality. . . . Beyond that, you've got a little leeway to say, 'OK, we're going to try doing things a little differently now.' "

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Former Del. John R. Leopold, who has been contemplating a run for county executive for months, appears to be leaning toward seeking to return to the House of Delegates instead.

"I would say I'm leaning toward the General Assembly, but I haven't made a final, dotted-line decision," Mr. Leopold said. "Obviously, time is running out. I only have until the 5th of July to make the decision."

Mr. Leopold said the biggest hurdle is the money he would have to spend to compete in what many observers believe would be a tough primary race against Del. John G. Gary and, if he won, a second race against the Democratic nominee.

Complicating matters is the fact that Mr. Leopold has pledged not to accept any money from developers, who he says are the major campaign contributors. Instead, the Pasadena Republican would finance his campaign with his own money.

"I have always maintained I could afford one expensive campaign, but not two," Mr. Leopold said.

"I also have some unfinished business in the legislature," Mr. Leopold said, mentioning higher education tuition assistance and automobile insurance as two areas he would like to address.

Still, the race for county executive is tempting, especially since Mr. Leopold commissioned a poll showing he would be the strongest Republican candidate in a general election against any Democrat who has entered.

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Two more contenders have declared for County Council seats.

Assistant State's Attorney William C. Mulford II, an Annapolis resident, announced he is seeking the Republican nomination for the 6thDistrict seat being vacated by outgoing council Vice Chairwoman Maureen Lamb. Mr. Mulford heads the Narcotics Trial Division in the state's attorney's office. His most notable case was not drug-related, but involved prosecuting Northeast High School teacher Ronald W. Price on sex abuse charges last year. Price was convicted and is serving a 21-year sentence.

Mr. Mulford is the first Republican to declare in the 6th District. Democrats Melinda Hamilton and John Rea are also running for the seat.

Democrat James "Ed" DeGrange, a Glen Burnie businessman, has announced his bid for the 2nd District County Council seat held by council Chairman C. Edward Middlebrooks. Mr. Middlebrooks, who last month switched his registration from Democrat to Republican, has yet to decide whether he will run for re-election or challenge state Sen. Michael J. Wagner of Ferndale.

Mr. DeGrange, who owns DeGrange Lumber in Glen Burnie, is the immediate past president of the Rotary Club of Glen Burnie and has served on the board of directors of the Glen Burnie Improvement Association. He also is on the executive board of directors of the county's "Take Back the Streets" program, is a commissioner with the Maryland State Lottery and is on the Salvation Army Advisory Board.

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Del. John C. Astle, an Annapolis Democrat who is running for the state Senate seat being vacated by Gerald W. Winegrad, will hold a rally at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Elks Lodge on Rowe Boulevard.

Tickets cost $10 and can be purchased by calling 263-3053, or at the door.

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