Democratic hopefuls stress economy, police, growth CAMPAIGN 1994

August 07, 1994|By Phyllis Brill | Phyllis Brill,Sun Staff Writer

More than two dozen political hopefuls came to Candidates' Night at the First District Democratic Club in Edgewood Monday to introduce themselves to the Democratic masses. But the masses stayed home.

The 18 candidates, some accompanied by spouses and campaign workers, outnumbered club members and interested citizens by a ratio of nearly 3-to-1.

Although the meeting was sparsely attended, the candidates' remarks indicated that they regard the economic health of the county, the coming referendum on a county police force and managed growth as major issues in the coming election.

Clearly, some local races are shaping up to be busier than others. In the County Council competition, only three of the six races promise any activity before the primary Sept. 13. There is only one candidate per party in Districts D, E and F.

In District A, which includes Edgewood and Joppatowne, two Democrats and three Republicans, including incumbent Susan B. Heselton, want the seat.

Neither of the Democrats -- Tom Eser, a professional firefighter, or H. Dean Freeman, a state employee who is the son of state Sen. Habern W. Freeman Jr. -- has held office before. Both showed up to meet 1st District members Monday night.

Mr. Eser spoke against crime and in support of Aberdeen Proving Ground as a crucial job center in the county. Mr. Freeman said he favors term limits for council members and opposes taxes, particularly the transfer tax instituted last year on real estate purchases.

On one of the few timely subjects to emerge all evening -- the future of the sheriff's office in Harford County -- Mr. Eser and Mr. Freeman agreed: The sheriff should remain the chief law enforcement officer in the county.

E. Dale Zepp, the deputy sheriff who resigned in controversy as head of the county Detention Center in 1993, and Sheriff Robert E. Comes, who is running for re-election, concurred. They are two of four Democrats running for sheriff in a year when the future of that office may be the most controversial issue before Harford voters.

The voters will decide in November whether the elected sheriff will remain in charge of law enforcement or whether there will be a new county police department run by a police chief to be appointed by the county executive.

"A county police force is not necessary in Harford County," Mr. Comes told the 1st District club. "If the county had a police force, the same people would be doing the same job but it would cost more money."

Former Sheriff Dominick Mele and George W. Cunningham, a deputy sheriff in Baltimore City, who also are running on the Democratic ticket, did not attend the meeting. The winner of the four-man primary will face Harford County Assistant State's Attorney Joseph Meadows, the only Republican candidate, in the November general election.

In Council District B, where Republican Joanne S. Parrott is vacating her seat after eight years to run for council president, the list of candidates is long, but most are Republicans.

Charles L. Brockmeyer, a longtime Edgewood businessman and one of two Democrats running for the seat, told the club he is against taxes and against a large public debt.

His Democratic primary opponent, Joyce Eaton of Fallston, who lost to Mrs. Parrott in 1986 by less than 1,000 votes, did not attend.

Neither did John F. Haggerty, one of two Democrats running for the council in District C, which includes most of greater Bel Air. Mr. Haggerty, a retired educator who manages Thomas Run Park, will face H. Edward Andrews in the primary.

Mr. Andrews, the County Council's attorney, is running on the same issue that won Theresa M. Pierno the District C seat four years ago. "There is a single issue in Harford County and that is uncontrolled growth and development," the first-time candidate told the group.

Mrs. Pierno, who now is running for council president, faces Arthur Helton, a former councilman and state senator, in the Democratic primary. It's likely that growth and development and their effect on the county budget will be central to that contest, too.

"I set my agenda four years ago, and I kept to it," Mrs. Pierno told the crowd. She noted that she has voted consistently for environmental controls and managed growth. "The highest density areas also have the highest taxes. Somebody has to pay for these services," she said.

Mr. Helton, a farmer and businessman who owns auto stores in Aberdeen and Havre de Grace, did not attend the meeting.

Two of the six Democrats seeking the 2nd Congressional District seat being vacated by Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, a Republican, attended, apparently to go after the blue-collar vote that dominates much of the 1st District.

Joseph Bish, Jr., the only Harford Countian running for Congress, labeled himself a "serious conservative" who is "pro-gun all the way."

The 37-year-old Mr. Bish, who went to work at age 12 in his uncle's bakery in Baltimore, is an electronic engineer at Westinghouse. He told the group that if citizens want to rid their district of such pollutants as mustard agents and incinerators, .. they should elect a local candidate to Mrs. Bentley's seat.

Opposing him, among four others, is Baltimore County Del. Connie DeJuliis, who tried to appeal to the audience by invoking her blue-collar Dundalk roots and her past as a single mother struggling to support three children. She said she moved into political office fighting the Norris Farm Landfill in Baltimore County.

Del. Mary Louise Preis, a lawyer who is running for re-election to one of three District 34 seats, said she wants to see more money going into the revitalization of Edgewood. None of her five opponents in the primary attended the club's meeting.

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