DeJuliis seeks Bentley seat in Bentley style CAMPAIGN 1994 -- THE RACE FOR GOVERNOR

August 15, 1994|By Glenn Small | Glenn Small,Sun Staff Writer

When Democrat Connie Galiazzo DeJuliis spoke to the luncheon group in the home of a Harford County friend, she was unaware that there was a Republican lurking in the crowd.

The Republican, a Towson businesswoman and fan of Helen Delich Bentley, peppered the 48-year-old congressional candidate with questions. She left the meeting impressed.

"I think she has a great deal to offer," said the GOP infiltrator, who requested anonymity. "I think she's one of the most level-headed, intelligent people I've met . . . I think her chances are excellent."

That kind of exchange encourages Mrs. DeJuliis and her strategists as she campaigns for the 2nd District congressional seat being vacated by Mrs. Bentley, a popular Republican running for governor.

They want residents of the district -- which includes eastern Baltimore County, all Harford County and a shoreline slice of Anne Arundel -- to see Mrs. DeJuliis as a feisty, down-to-earth, Bentley-style candidate. But her critics, including senators who ousted her from her post as a trustee of Baltimore County's community colleges, say that tough-talking style can get her into trouble.

For Mrs. DeJuliis, who just finished her freshman term in the Maryland House of Delegates, the immediate hurdle is the Democratic primary, in which she faces Del. Gerry L. Brewster of Towson, front runner, and a list of lesser-known opponents. Mrs. DeJuliis got a late start, jumping in at the end of April after Mr. Brewster had been gathering support, money and endorsements for months. But with strong labor backing, an aggressive campaign style and a proven ability to upset front runners, her supporters think she has a good chance.

"We're in this to win," said campaign manager Michael Berman.

Mrs. DeJuliis and Mr. Brewster have very different backgrounds. Mr. Brewster grew up in northern Baltimore County, the son of a former U.S. senator; Mrs. DeJuliis grew up in Dundalk, where her father was a steel worker and her mother worked on the assembly line at Western Electric Co.

She married young and had three children. Divorced when she was in her 20s, she went to work on the midnight shift at Western Electric to support herself. She earned her high school diploma and attended Dundalk Community College and the University of Baltimore. She did not receive a diploma from UB, but earned 126 credits, usually considered enough to graduate.

She got her political initiation as a volunteer in the successful 1974 county executive campaign of Theodore G. Venetoulis and later became a community activist in Dundalk, where she worked to shut down the Norris Farm landfill.

In 1990, Mrs. DeJuliis ran an aggressive campaign for the House of Delegates in Dundalk. She surprised the local Democratic organization and unseated an incumbent.

Her congressional campaign got off to an unusual start. The day before she announced, she married James R. "Ron" DeJuliis, business manager of Local 37, Union of Operating Engineers. She also took his name, jeopardizing her hard-won recognition but undoubtedly pleasing her traditional constituents.

She tells voters her background as a blue-collar worker and working mother have given her an understanding of everyday people. She talks of politicians in Washington forgetting where they came from. "They forget why they're there. They serve special interests," she said.

She recounted a conversation with a constituent who told her Congress has lost touch with reality.

"I said, 'To lose touch with reality, you had to have it in the first place.' "

An energetic campaigner, she introduces herself to everyone who crosses her path. At 7:40 a.m. on a recent morning at the light rail stop in Timonium, where commuters were hurriedly boarding and leaving the trains, the job required tact and agility. "It's a delicate balance between introducing yourself and intruding on their daily life," Mrs. DeJuliis said.

Mrs. DeJuliis constantly stresses her connection to working people.

A few years ago, she said, she served on Baltimore County's board of community college trustees when it was considering a $25-a-semester tuition increase. She recalled that one of the three community college presidents downplayed the increase, saying, "It's an Izod shirt."

Mrs. DeJuliis said she replied, "To you, but not to the single mother of two. To her, it's a bag of groceries."

The fee increase was voted down, she said.

But that kind of outspokenness led to complaints from other board members and her eventual ouster.

Mrs. DeJuliis said she was asking tough questions about questionable budget items at Dundalk Community College, and

other board members wanted her to back off.

But one of the four state senators who voted to replace her on the board said it was not so much her asking tough questions as "asking the wrong questions and not listening to the answers."

In the House of Delegates, her record is hard to stereotype. She voted for women's right to abortion, against tax increases, and against a proposal to outlaw semiautomatic assault weapons.

Along the way, she has gathered support. The Maryland AFL-CIO endorsed her, as did Emily's List, a national, women's fund-raising group that supports abortion rights. She also has financial backing from local groups supporting abortion rights.

REGISTER TO VOTE

Today is the last day to register to vote in Maryland's Sept. 13 primary elections. You can learn where to register by calling Sundial, The Baltimore Sun's telephone information service.

For most users, the number to dial is (410) 783-1800. But in Anne Arundel County, call 268-7736; in Harford County, 836-5028; and in Carroll County, 848-0338.

Then, using a Touch-Tone phone, punch in the appropriate four-digit code after you hear the greeting to get information about where you live:

* Anne Arundel -- 6181

* Baltimore -- 6182

* Baltimore County -- 6183

* Carroll County -- 6184

* Harford County -- 6185

' * Howard County -- 6186

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