Democratic primary in 8th promises close race CAMPAIGN 1994

September 06, 1994|By Patrick Gilbert | Patrick Gilbert,Sun Staff Writer

Donna Felling is letting her political instincts guide her as she seeks the Democratic nomination for state Senate in the 8th District. It's a decision she wishes she had made four years ago.

In 1990, Ms. Felling sought her second term in the House of Delegates by eschewing her political independence for a spot on the incumbent Democratic ticket headed by state Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell. In an election that saw a wave of anti-incumbent sentiment, Ms. Felling lost, along with two other longtime incumbents in the area.

"My gut instinct that election year was to run the same independent campaign I ran in 1986," said Ms. Felling. "I should've listened to my gut."

Now she has come full circle, taking on Mr. Bromwell, a 16-year incumbent, in a heated battle for his Senate seat in the Baltimore County district northeast of Baltimore.

Along with the fight between incumbents Paula Hollinger and Janice Piccinini in the new 11th District, the Bromwell-Felling contest could be among the closest in the county.

Mr. Bromwell barely survived the 1990 anti-incumbent wave, and he said he has learned his lesson.

"I'm running as hard as ever because I think my experience and leadership in Annapolis is needed as we face critical fiscal issues, and because I have some goals to achieve in the next four years," he said.

The Democratic primary winner is likely to face Republican Del. John J. Bishop, who was redistricted into the 8th from his home base in the Towson area. Mr. Bishop faces only token opposition from political unknown Scott O. Stout in the Republican primary.

Ms. Felling's platform is mainly that health care is the No. 1 issue and will remain so.

"We need more legislators who have a background in health care in Annapolis to better deal with the health care problems," the 44-year-old registered nurse said.

She said she is committed to promoting people's right to choose their own health-care providers and their right to transfer health insurance from one employer to another, and to eliminating pre-existing medical conditions as grounds for disqualification in medical insurance program.

On crime, Ms. Felling supports no parole for violent offenders and a quicker appeals process.

But the focus of her campaign against Mr. Bromwell is in her theme: "It's time for a change."

Without criticizing her opponent by name, Ms. Felling noted that for the past four years, while Mr. Bromwell has been chairman of the county's Senate delegation, Baltimore County has fared poorly in getting state aid during most of the last four years.

She cited an acrimonious relationship between the county legislative delegation and Gov. William Donald Schaefer, and between the delegation and County Executive Roger B. Hayden.

"Baltimore County citizens deserve to have better lines of communication between county government, the delegation and the governor's office," she said.

Mr. Bromwell said the differences between the delegation and the governor have been overblown.

"My district, I believe, is the only one in the last four years to have three new elementary schools built, much of it through state funding," he said. "And my district has had $160 million worth of road improvements."

Mr. Bromwell, who owns a small construction business, said he has always tried to look out for his district, pushing legislation under which the state acquired and turned over to the Department of Natural Resources 200 acres of land abutting the Hickey School for male juvenile offenders.

"That helped to form a swath of open space from Gunpowder Falls State Park to Cromwell Valley," said Mr. Bromwell. "And it prevented any expansion of the Hickey School."

Mr. Bromwell, 45, takes a pragmatic approach to anti-Bromwell sentiment in the district.

"If I've been in office too long, the voters will let me know on Sept. 13," he said. "Voters have a way of setting their own term limitations."

Meanwhile, GOP candidates will have to contend with a redrawn 8th District that has more Democrats and fewer Republicans than it once had.

That hasn't deterred Mr. Bishop, a two-term GOP delegate who represented the old 9th District before boundary lines were redrawn.

"As a Republican in a county with a 2-1 edge in registered Democrats over Republicans, you have to have crossover vote in the general election anyway," said Mr. Bishop, 46.

He heads a GOP ticket that includes incumbent delegates Alfred W. Redmer Jr., James F. Ports, Jr. and newcomer Cal Clemons.

Mr. Bishop said he is not ignoring the primary, but his ticket's strategy is clearly directed toward the general election, with all the candidates sounding anti-crime, pro-education and tax-reduction themes.

Mr. Stout, Mr. Bishop's Senate challenger, said he has nevesought elected office before and has never been involved in politics at any level.

The 64-year-old owner of a small business and retired supervisofor the Maryland Juvenile Services Division said he is against abortion and in favor of the right to bear arms and reducing taxes.

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