3 hopefuls spar over redrawn district

September 02, 1994|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,Sun Staff Writer

Democrat hopeful Joseph R. Robison is ready to take his seat in the House of Delegates -- even though he has yet to beat an opponent in the Sept. 13 primary and would still have to face the incumbent Republican in the general election Nov. 8.

"I don't see those gentlemen as being leaders," Mr. Robison, a former Laurel mayor, said of his two opponents. "I don't see any record of what they have done."

The other candidates in that race -- Democrat John A. Giannetti and incumbent Republican John S. Morgan -- are hardly ready to concede.

"Voters in Laurel, they feel less safe than they did four years ago," said Mr. Giannetti, a political newcomer hammering away at Mr. Robison's record as Laurel mayor. "Joe Robison could have done something to lessen the crime in Laurel. There's a question of his commitment."

And Mr. Morgan, who is running in a district that is more heavily Democratic than it was four years ago, argues that his experience and record speak for themselves.

"Don't be fooled," said Mr. Morgan, who is running unopposed in the Republican primary. "I would be a better choice."

Laurel makes up most of the reconfigured District 13B. Redistricting cut out much of Mr. Morgan's Howard County constituency, giving Mr. Robison a possible advantage in his hometown.

Although District 13B is one of the state's smallest, the primary issue is a big one: Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke's plan to build a 78,600-seat football stadium in the community.

That is coupled with concerns about severe traffic problems on local and state roads and a growing crime problem that has led to an increased police presence at Laurel High School and other area schools.

Mr. Giannetti, 30, has used problems in Laurel to launch attacks on Mr. Robison's record as mayor, and he disparages Mr. Morgan as a lawmaker who "got elected and disappeared."

The Laurel resident is a Maryland native who was reared in the Berwyn Heights area of Prince George's County.

A recent graduate of the University of Maryland Law School and a former marketing director for the Phillips Seafood Restaurants in the Baltimore-Washington area, Mr. Giannetti also co-owns a graphics and design firm.

"I am by far the most qualified to be a legislator," Mr. Giannetti said.

He supports electronically monitored home detention for nonviolent drug offenders and wants to increase tax revenues by attracting and keeping businesses in the state.

Like Mr. Robison, he supports a Redskins stadium in Laurel.

Mr. Robison said that what people want -- and all he can really offer -- is "a strong voice in Annapolis."

"People are not interested in the issues," said Mr. Robison, a former mail carrier and volunteer firefighter.

Mr. Robison, 61, grew up in Laurel and said that because the other two candidates did not, they can't offer the kind of help that he can to the people in District 13B.

"Two carpetbaggers have moved in," Mr. Robison said. "They're only interested in themselves. When the election is over, they'll be gone."

Besides his strong support for a stadium in Laurel, Mr. Robison favors year-round schooling as a way to help students improve academically and keep out of trouble.

Mr. Morgan is unopposed in the Republican race but faces a tough challenge in the general election.

The biggest edge for the Democrats is the redrawing of the district lines, which stripped the district of most of its heavily Republican Howard County precincts. Most of the district now sits in Prince George's County, in mostly Democratic precincts.

That's bad news for Mr. Morgan, whose constituency was based in Howard County. The reconfigured District 13B has 6,900 registered Democrats and 4,600 registered Republicans, according to the Howard and Prince George's county boards of elections.

Mr. Morgan, who opposes a Redskins stadium in Laurel and favors year-round schooling, argues that his record should prevail over such partisan arithmetic. He cites such accomplishments as helping citizens in Laurel regain overcharges in park and planning taxes.

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