Democrats have experience Scramble on for new seats in 13A CAMPAIGN 1994

September 01, 1994|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Sun Staff Writer

If Democrats in eastern Columbia, Savage, Scaggsville and Fulton are looking for political experience in a state delegate, they'll find plenty in District 13A.

Among the six people seeking nominations for two new delegate seats are Shane Pendergrass, two-term county councilwoman; Frank Turner, a law professor who worked for a U.S. senator for seven years; and Pearl Atkinson-Stewart, a community activist who served on the Columbia Council and the county Democratic Central Committee.

The field also includes Wanda Hurt, a Columbia Democratic Club president who has spent the last three years lobbying in Annapolis; Robert Ardinger, a lobbyist for the disabled and a college political science instructor; and James Fitzgerald, a 1992 congressional candidate.

Although their experience varies, their political views are remarkably similar: They support abortion rights, gun control, welfare reform and more state money for Howard County school construction.

That agreement may help explain why the six Democrats have been friendly to each other.

'A great campaign'

"I think it's a great campaign; I love it," said Ms. Pendergrass, a Huntington resident. "I love it. They're all nice people, and they're all people who would give something different to the position."

Ms. Pendergrass, 43, is probably the best-known candidate seeking the two delegate seats, having served eight years on the council in a district that included a portion of Kings Contrivance, Owen Brown and the county's southeastern edge.

She has made schools a top priority, saying, "The reason that I got into government as a community activist was overcrowded schools." As council chairwoman, Ms. Pendergrass lobbied for state school construction funds, something she said she could do better as a delegate.

Ms. Pendergrass also highlights her work on the issue of growth, specifically the county's adequate public facilities law, which regulated development, on the General Plan and on comprehensive rezoning.

On crime, Ms. Pendergrass shares other candidates' support of alternative sentencing as a way of saving jail space and rehabilitating nonviolent offenders.

Pearl Atkinson-Stewart would like voters to take note of her accomplishments throughout Howard County.

The 56-year-old resident of the Elkhorn neighborhood in Owen Brown has served on her village board, on the Columbia Council as vice-chairwoman and on the Democratic Central Committee.

She also founded Citizens United for Black Equality, a local civil rights group, served on the Governor's Committee for Health Care and Economic Development, and participated in numerous other groups in her 20 years in Columbia.

Worked with budgets

By day, Ms. Atkinson-Stewart is an administrative assistant in the county Public Works Department's Bureau of Engineering, a job she said has taught her much about working with government budgets.

As an advocate in Annapolis, Ms. Atkinson-Stewart said she has lobbied on health care, gun control, domestic violence, carjacking, stalking, abortion rights and human rights.

Like her opponents, Ms. Atkinson-Stewart puts education and crime high on her agenda. She believes the two go hand in hand.

"If we had funding for education, that is where we should start [fighting crime]. If you have an educated person, then that person can have some hope and will be contributing to society," she said.

She also said that more needs to be done on health care reform.

"We need to deal with mental care; we need to deal with long-term care, especially with the increasing population of seniors in Howard County," she said, noting that the elderly population is expected to reach 85,000 by 2000.

Frank S. Turner, 47, also has lived in Howard County for 20 years, during which he has been a professor of business law at Morgan State University in Baltimore. He has a law degree and has been active in politics, working as 1986 deputy campaign manager for U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski and for six years as special assistant to the senator on small business issues.

Mr. Turner has small-business experience himself as former owner of a Dunkin' Donuts franchise and of a real estate investment company.

As a legislator, Mr. Turner said, his business and political experience could help him deal with economic issues, such as the state budget deficit of more than $1 billion that is projected over the next five years.

He said many of the state's economic problems could be improved by cutting regulatory red tape and by making Maryland more "business-friendly," citing Northern Virginia as an example.

On the issue of crime, Mr. Turner seeks reform of the state's juvenile justice system. "If somebody vandalizes a house or vandalizes a school, I want them to not only clean up that school, but I want to see them do 30 or 50 hours of community service," he said.

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