In GOP race, a new face vs. convert CAMPAIGN 1994

September 09, 1994|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Sun Staff Writer

She wants to defend state's rights; he wants state Sen. Michael J. Wagner's political hide.

Victoria J. Muzzuco, a Severn real estate agent, and County Council Chairman C. Edward Middlebrooks are vying in the Sept. 13 primary for the Republican nomination in the District 32

Senate race.

The winner will face the three-term Democratic incumbent Mr. Wagner in the Nov. 8 general election. The 32nd district includes Linthicum, Glen Burnie, Severn and Maryland City.

It will be the first time Mr. Wagner will face a GOP opponent, though neither Ms. Muzzuco, 47, nor Mr. Middlebrooks, 39, can be called stalwart Republican activists.

This is her first political campaign, and his first as a Republican.

Mr. Middlebrooks, a Glen Burnie lawyer, has won elective office three times as a Democrat. Before winning election to the council in 1990, he served eight years on the county's Democratic Central Committee, the party's local governing body. switched his affiliation in May preparing to run against Mr. Wagner, with whom he has feuded over the past year.

Helen Fister, chairwoman of the county Republican Central Committee, said she never heard of Ms. Muzzuco until she registered to place her name on the primary ballot. She said she had heard of, but never met, Mr. Middlebrooks until he changed parties. She added that she is pleased he did.

"We did not have a viable candidate in that race until he came in," said Mrs. Fister, noting that Mr. Middlebrooks now heads a complete District 32 GOP ticket, including state House of Delegates and County Council candidates.

The district's 42,271 registered voters include 24,246 Democrats and 14,165 Republicans.

"I would like to get at least one of the House seats, and I think Mr. Middlebrooks has a good chance at the Senate seat," Mrs. Fister said. But because a Republican has never been elected from District 32, she added, "I have nothing to gauge it by. Maybe this primary will help us."

Ms. Muzzuco said she was drawn into the race by concern that the state government interferes more than it should with residents' lives. Much of the blame for that, she said, can be laid at the feet of the federal government, which imposed intrusive education policies and other programs, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, upon the states.

Although she has never before been civicly involved, she is known to listeners of Zoh Hieronimus' talk radio program on WCBM in Baltimore. She was part of a guest panel Wednesday, talking about the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

"I really do believe that the problems that most people are talking about stem from a lack of state sovereignty," Ms. Muzzuco said Wednesday afternoon. "At the state level, citizens can be active, have input and have some impact. At the federal level, it's too far removed. All I'm stating is we need to go back to the way our government was designed."

Ms. Muzzuco said she had been studying the U.S. Constitution for two years when the Maryland General Assembly passed a ban on some assault-style weapons this winter, which she said violates the spirit of the 2nd Amendment.

Mr. Middlebrooks, who had been a member of Mr. Wagner's ticket in previous elections, entered the race after the senator recruited a prominent Glen Burnie businessman to run against him for his County Council seat.

Throughout the summer, Mr. Middlebrooks has attempted to paint Mr. Wagner as an old-style political boss; Mr. Wagner has described Mr. Middlebrooks as a self-serving grandstander.

Mr. Middlebrooks spent three years as a bit player on the County Council before he emerged as chairman last December, after a back-room struggle to keep the seat out of the Republicans hands.

"Eddie is a hard guy to read," said County Councilman George Bachman, a Democrat. "The council is all about building consensus, but with Eddie you can't build a consensus because you never know which way he's voting."

During his council term, he sponsored an anti-stalking law, co-sponsored a law to keep adult bookstores and video stores out of residential neighborhoods and pushed for the early renovation of Andover Middle School. He supported the county's new anti-smoking law and unsuccessfully opposed construction of a county jail on Ordnance Road.

Mr. Middlebrooks said he supports a two-term limit for state senators and delegates as a way of preventing politicians from ++ becoming too entrenched.

Mr. Wagner, who is unopposed in the Democratic primary, yesterday declined to comment about Mr. Middlebrooks. He said he does not know Ms. Muzzuco.

"All I'll say is, if I was Republican I'd vote for her," Mr. Wagner said.

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