In newly redrawn District 14B, five Democratic candidates have lined up for a chance to unseat Republican House of Delegates stalwarts Robert H. Kittleman and Robert L. Flanagan.
Richard E. Crabb, Bushrod W. Hopkins, Andrew D. Levy, Teresa M. Rush and Carolyn Willis are vying for two delegate seats representing a relatively conservative electorate in most of Ellicott City, western Howard County and a portion of northern Montgomery County.
Mr. Hopkins is a 79-year-old Clarksville resident who said he once shook Calvin Coolidge's hand and now hopes to pass a state resolution to exonerate perennial presidential candidate Lyndon LaRouche and to put the Federal Reserve System under the control of the federal government.
Ellicott City resident and trial lawyer Andrew D. Levy has picked up a wide range of endorsements while largely ignoring his four primary opponents and aggressively focusing his campaign on "the Bobs."
"Our incumbents have been in office a total of 20 years and we have virtually nothing to show for their efforts. Only one bill introduced by Mr. Kittleman became law. It established the Maryland state fossil," Mr. Levy said.
"No one takes them seriously, they are known as fringe legislators. It's not a Republican thing, it's not a Democratic thing, it's an ineffectiveness thing."
The two incumbents responded to that charge by saying a legislator's effectiveness is not measured by the number of bills passed. What counts is their work on budgets to prevent tax increases and important legislation such as welfare reform.
Mr. Kittleman and Mr. Flanagan had expected a fairly easy campaign until the Democrats filed just before the July 5 campaign filing deadline.
Now they may have to contend with the sharp criticism of Mr. Levy, who has been endorsed by the state lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police, the Sierra Club, League of Conservation Voters, the Ellicott City Democratic Club and the National Abortion Rights Action League.
NARAL also gave its seal of approval to Ms. Rush and Ms. Willis.
Mr. Levy grew up in Silver Spring and has lived in Howard County for 14 years. While he was in law school, he developed a central nervous system disorder that left him disabled. He now uses a wheelchair or leg braces to get around.
Mr. Levy, 38, said he was prompted to run for office by his frustration with worsening societal problems such as crime and poverty, combined with what he considers the ineffectiveness of his state delegates.
"I finally decided that leaders don't magically appear, and I decided to put my law practice on ice and my family on ice" to run for office, he said.
"I have overcome a lot of things in my life," he said. "I believe that I can go to Annapolis and accomplish concrete things for the people in the district."
Money for schools
Like the other Democratic candidates, Mr. Levy wants to bring in more state money to pay for school renovations and construction.
As a trial lawyer, he said he is especially aware of the problems in the state's criminal justice system.
"We're wasting money. Prisons are as valuable a resource as anything else the government buys," and for that reason must be used sparingly.
"People who stick guns in peoples' faces, they've got to be in prison, there's no doubt about that," Mr. Levy said. To make room for violent offenders, the state should use alternative sentencing for nonviolent offenders, including home detention, boot camps and community service, as well as beef up drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs, he said.
Another issue that the candidates have addressed is growth -- a sensitive issue for west countians who moved to the country only to see more houses spring up around them.
On a state level, managing growth could take the form of fostering better cooperation between counties, Mr. Levy said, noting Montgomery County's problems with a limited-access U.S. 29 in Howard County, and statewide concerns about the effect of storm water runoff on the Chesapeake Bay.
Growth is also a big issue for Ms. Rush, 31, a Valley Mede resident whose family moved to Howard County 45 years ago.
Ms. Rush said that while campaigning door to door in west county, she encountered more dissatisfaction about development than any other topic.
"The Route 108-32 mess, that's pretty much devastated Clarksville," she said. As a state legislator, Ms. Rush said she would try to better warn constituents about such projects, and steer state funding away from unwanted projects.
An Elkridge native who works as a senior settlement officer for a Columbia title company and was recently laid off from a previous job, Ms. Rush said she has a special concern for workers' issues, such as making inexpensive health insurance available to everyone.
"We need to make sure that everyone's covered," and for more than the 18 months after losing one's job, which is provided by federal law.
'Care about people'