Opponents seek McCabe's weak spot

August 21, 1994|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Sun Staff Writer

*TC Democratic hopefuls are telling voters that Republican state Sen. Christopher J. McCabe's conservative positions put him far to the right of most of his constituents, but the incumbent says he fits very comfortably in a district he describes as moderate to conservative.

James P. Mundy, a high school political science teacher from Ellicott City, says he's so confident he'll win the Sept. 13 Democratic primary that he's focusing on campaigning against Mr. McCabe. But Mr. Mundy's opponent, Michael B. Dupuy of Silver Spring, says that could be a mistake.

"I think Jim Mundy is running against a straw man now -- Chris McCabe. That's not where it's at," Mr. Dupuy says. "I'm running in this race."

Mr. McCabe doesn't have a free ride to the Nov. 8 general election either. Anne R. Ward, a Columbia resident who has run a low-visibility, inexpensive campaign, is his Republican primary challenger.

Both Democratic candidates are looking to exploit what they perceive as Mr. McCabe's weaknesses while preparing for their own showdown.

Saying Mr. McCabe has a "right-wing agenda," Mr. Mundy says that the incumbent never will command a leadership position in the Democrat-controlled General Assembly.

Mr. Dupuy says Mr. McCabe "currently isn't even at the table" when it comes to influencing votes to secure benefits for constituents.

Even Ms. Ward has joined the chorus, saying she views Mr. McCabe as "very conservative" and considers herself "more moderate."

Mr. McCabe, 38, of Ellicott City, says he is "one of the more independent voices in Annapolis," evidenced by his refusal to accept political action committee (PAC) contributions. He says his main roles are to question legislation he considers imprudent and solve problems for constituents. He takes offense at Mr. Mundy's characterization.

"Anybody who'd use the words 'right wing' has decided to stereotype. It's simply meant to be derogatory and it's an undignified comment from a prospective state senator," Mr. McCabe says. "We're here to try to make a difference in the lives of other people."

In his second attempt at the office in 1990, Mr. McCabe wrested the seat from Democratic incumbent Edward J. Kasemeyer, who is seeking to return to the Senate, representing the newly redrawn 12th District.

Voter registration numbers would seem to confirm Mr. Dupuy's assertion that the redrawn 13th District -- which includes Ellicott City, a small portion of west Columbia, western Howard County and northeastern Montgomery County -- is not a Republican bastion. Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by about 30,000 to 23,000.

But Allan Kittleman, Howard Republican Central Committee chairman, says the district is much stronger for Republicans now than in 1990 because redistricting cut out much of west Columbia, a Democratic stronghold. Also, the suburban-rural district includes many conservative Democrats, he says. "McCabe must have gotten a lot of their votes, or he wouldn't have won," he says.

Mr. McCabe says he can't afford to overlook Ms. Ward.

"The way I look at it, I've done a very solid, responsible job as a Republican Party official," Mr. McCabe said. "Within the party, I should have pretty broad support."

During his first term, Mr. McCabe voted against two new state-sponsored gambling proposals, Keno and off-track betting, and the 1992 state budget, which raised taxes. "I've been fairly steadfast in opposing what I consider irresponsible new ways of gaining revenue," he says.

He voted against the 1991 bill protecting abortion rights, and says abortions should be allowed only in cases of rape or incest or when a woman's life is in danger. Ms. Ward says she supports protecting abortion rights.

Mr. McCabe, who works as a fund-raiser for Johns Hopkins Hospital and its medical school, was one of two senators to vote against a 1993 health care reform bill similar to legislation being considered in Congress. "All you need to do is look at what's going on in Washington, the great debate" on how to handle the issue, he says.

This year, he voted for a bill on the Senate floor banning the sale of 18 types of semiautomatic pistols after voting against it in committee. He says he wouldn't support comprehensive gun control legislation.

Ms. Ward says she would support comprehensive gun control legislation requiring licensing.

Mr. McCabe sponsored bills reforming the adoption process and providing rights to women who have been sexually assaulted on Maryland campuses, but says he prefers weeding out bad bills to passing his own.

Ms. Ward, 43, owns Recycle Sports in Ellicott City, a used sporting gear business. She has a doctorate in adult education and has worked as a finance officer at the state Department of Education and business and industry specialist at Howard Community College.

Ms. Ward, who filed an affidavit pledging that her fund-raising would be restricted to $300 or less, acknowledges her chances are slim against her opponent.

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