Rivals in primary for House seat set similar goals

August 29, 1994|By Robert Guy Matthews | Robert Guy Matthews,Sun Staff Writer

Both Democratic candidates for the House of Delegates seat in District 47B are making the same promises: tougher crime laws, improved schools and putting priorities on state government spending.

First-term Del. Thomas E. Dewberry of Catonsville and challenger John K. "Jack" Milani of Woodlawn are running similar no-frills campaigns of old-fashioned door-knocking, handshaking and posting roadside signs. The two, both Baltimore County natives, even have raised about the same amount of money -- nearly $30,000.

Until now, the 47th had been a Baltimore district. But with redistricting after the 1990 Census, the 47B subdistrict was created entirely in southwest Baltimore County, from the western city line to Howard County. It is a predominantly white, middle-income area of mostly single-family homes.

The two contenders in the Sept. 13 primary are presenting voters with a choice between a one-term but entrenched delegate or a self-proclaimed "everyman" candidate with a throw-the-bums-out attitude.

"I have . . . helped solve well over a thousand constituent calls and complaints," said Mr. Dewberry, whose father, Frederick L. Dewberry, was a legislator and Baltimore County executive. "I think I have an ability to get their voice heard in the state government. . . . I have experience dealing with the budget. He doesn't."

And that's a good thing, Mr. Milani said.

"It comes down to business as usual or do you want a new approach," he said. "I'm not part of the political machinery."

Mr. Milani is not quite a political novice. He's vice president of the politically active Baltimore County Licensed Beverage Association and his father-in-law, George Abendschoen, a former aide to County Executive Roger B. Hayden, is a candidate for County Council for the second time in the 1st District.

"He seems to agree with what I say," Mr. Dewberry said of Mr. Milani. "He has even complimented me in the past. . . . I haven't heard a reason that I know of as to any dissatisfaction or why he would feel a need to replace me."

One reason is that Mr. Dewberry hasn't done enough about crime, Mr. Milani said. Car thefts are a big problem in the district, he said.

"I'd like to see criminals serve their entire sentences," he said -- all criminals, not just violent offenders.

Mr. Dewberry, who represented the 12th District in the House before redistricting, said he deserves credit for a new car theft prevention program passed this year that provides money to police departments to train new officers on how to spot and stop car thieves.

"I will continue to work on the problems of crime," he said. "People are afraid to leave their homes. As I go door-to-door, people are keeping their doors double-locked."

Another issue both Democrats say they hear about is schools. They say voters want their next delegate to make improving schools a priority.

Mr. Milani would like to see public schools compete for students.

"This way each school would have a specialized curriculum, and it would give us a barometer of how the schools are doing," he said.

"Of course, parents, teachers and the community would have a say," he said. Mr. Dewberry said he would work to bring state money into the district.

"Baltimore County is not getting its share for schools," he said. "The schools are in need of repair and expansion. There is overcrowding."

Finding money for crime prevention and improving the schools is possible despite some predictions of state budget cuts next year, both said.

"We have to . . . make government more affordable and efficient," Mr. Dewberry said.

Mr. Milani said he would approach the state budget process much as he handles the finances of his business, Monaghan's Pub in Woodlawn.

The pub got him in trouble two years ago when police officers saw customers receiving illegal payoffs from video gambling. Mr. Milani was given probation before judgment and fined $450.

The matter has come up during the campaign.

"I can't undo it," he said. "I would hope that the people who know me won't let one minor act undo 20-something years of community service. I asked myself at the beginning was it worth it to open up those wounds. I think the answer is yes."

Awaiting the winner of the Democratic primary is Steve Cumby of Catonsville, a food service specialist.

Unopposed in the Republican primary, he said his only goal is "to get to Annapolis and be the best I can to represent my district."

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