Primary in 7th District features familiar names CAMPAIGN 1994

August 24, 1994|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Sun Staff Writer

The Democratic primary for the 7th District features two of the best-known family names in South County.

The Chaneys are prominent in the development community, but Dorothy Dixon Chaney, 51, has made her own name serving 9 1/2 years on the county school board. She is married to E. Steuart Chaney, owner of Herrington Harbor North marina.

Joseph Collinson III, 35, a resident of Friendship who is a lawyer with offices in Upper Marlboro and Gaithersburg, is the son of Joseph Collinson Jr., a former county commissioner and councilman.

The third challenger, Patricia J. O'Brien, 60, a community activist from Deale, is familiar to voters as the perennial opponent to Virginia Clagett. Ms. Clagett, forced off the council after 20 years because of the county's term limit law, is a candidate for the House of Delegates.

This race marks Ms. O'Brien's fourth try for County Council, and without Ms. Clagett running, she thinks this is her best chance. Ms. Clagett was tough to beat because "she had the name recognition," Ms. O'Brien said.

But this time, she hopes voters will remember her name. "I feel I'm qualified because I've been a civic leader for more than 14 years," she said. "I know my way around county government. I think I'd be an excellent County Council person if given the chance."

Both Ms. Chaney and Mr. Collinson also cited Ms. Clagett's departure as a motivation to declare their candidacy.

"This year, with the seat open, it's the time to do it," Mr. Collinson said. "Why beat your head against a stone wall?"

"If I waited until the next election to run for County Council, I think my chances would be much less," said Ms. Chaney, a Lothian resident who works as a speech pathologist in the Calvert County public school district. "To me, this is my shot. If I ever want to do it, it would have to be now, to have a very good chance of winning."

If fund raising is the measure of a successful campaign, Ms. Chaney does indeed have a good chance of winning. According to campaign finance reports filed last week, she raised $17,509, nearly three times the $6,650 taken in by Mr. Collinson. Ms. O'Brien has lent her campaign $1,000.

"We've got a lot of grass-roots support. The other side has all the money," Mr. Collinson said. "You can't swing a dead cat around here without hitting a Chaney sign."

Ms. Chaney also has the advantage of Ms. Clagett's endorsement.

Mr. Collinson said he was not surprised by Ms. Clagett's endorsement. "It's hard to blame her when she's received contributions [from the Chaneys] for years and years," he said.

Ms. Chaney said she is offering her record and her expertise as a school board member as reasons to vote for her.

"I think the council is going to need me, because the other members who have some Board of Education experience will be leaving," she said. "There is no person dedicated to education. I would love to volunteer to be that person, to be a liaison with education, and to bring to the council the information I already have and the information that I can learn from the Board of Education."

Mr. Collinson said he thinks it is a great idea for Ms. Chaney to run on her record as a board member.

"We hope people judge her by her record," he said. "We hope people judge her by 32 students in a classroom."

The travails of the county's schools are well-documented, he said, from the sex scandal involving Ronald W. Price to school crowding to low test scores to taking money intended for teachers' longevity raises and using it to hire more employees.

"Every day you can pick up the paper and there's something about the school board," he said. The solution, he said, is an elected school board instead of the current system of nominating conventions and appointment by the governor.

"I'm for the politics of democracy as opposed to the politics of patronage and elitism," Mr. Collinson said.

Ms. Chaney defended the board's performance, and denied that Anne Arundel's schools do a poor job. "We have students who go to some of the finest schools in the country . . . I think that we have a good school system. I'm not saying that it can't improve," she said.

She also defended the board's handling of the Price case. "Certainly, with the mandates that came from the state superintendent, Anne Arundel County carried out every one of those mandates."

Ms. Chaney also is catching some flack because of her husband's business dealings. Mr. Chaney is embroiled in a zoning dispute with the Rose Haven Civic Association, which is opposing his application for a special exception to build three houses on a lot next to his marina that is within the buffer protected by the county's Critical Areas law.

The community association asserts that the special exception should be denied because wetlands were filled in to create the lots. Mr. Chaney wants the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to determine whether the land should be officially designated as wetlands. The zoning hearing, which had been scheduled for July 21, has been postponed while he awaits a ruling.

Mr. Collinson said the dispute is a clear example of the kind of conflict of interest Ms. Chaney would face as a council member. "I think it indicates that the law doesn't apply to them and they're in it for what they can get," he said.

But Ms. Chaney denies any conflict.

"I don't think so, any more so than any other [council member whose] spouse who is in business in Anne Arundel County," she said.

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