Thomas beats Yeager in his back yard PRIMARY 1994

September 15, 1994|By Erik Nelson and Adam Sachs

As of midday Tuesday, Del. Virginia M. Thomas thought there was no way she could beat three-term Sen. Thomas M. Yeager, having represented only one-third of the incumbent's district.

"The question was, would people in four months have enough confidence to believe I do care, I do listen and that I'm a very effective legislator?" she said.

By evening, the answer was clear.

She had won precincts in the Fulton incumbent's back yard: in Clarksville, Simpsonville and Scaggsville. The only two of 32 Howard County precincts carried by Mr. Yeager were his own home base of Fulton and a precinct in North Laurel.

Other General Assembly candidates were less successful in trying to defeat established Howard County political figures.

Former County Executive Elizabeth Bobo, incumbent Republican Dels. Robert H. Kittleman and Robert L. Flanagan, incumbent Republican Sen. Christopher J. McCabe and County Councilwoman Shane Pendergrass all won their party nominations despite sometimes strong and well-financed opposition.

By a margin of 64 percent to 36 percent, Ms. Thomas removed a longtime, influential senator who had the support of Senate President Thomas V. "Mike" Miller Jr.

For months, Ms. Thomas canvassed neighborhoods outside her east Columbia and Guilford base, listening to the concerns of Mr. Yeager's constituents -- school crowding, a shortage of parkland, automobile vandalism.

With that race over, however, she faces another opponent well-known in the same areas she just wrestled from Mr. Yeager.

Del. Martin G. Madden, R-13B, unopposed in the Republican primary, was out waving to commuters on busy highways even before the general election campaign began.

Ms. Bobo enjoyed knocking on doors in District 12B, visiting with Democrats in west Columbia and southern Ellicott City for the last four months, she said there was one response that troubled her.

"I had a problem again with people saying, 'Oh you're a shoo-in,' and I said, 'We've been there once before,' " said Ms. Bobo, who was expected to be re-elected in 1990 but was narrowly defeated by Republican Charles I. Ecker.

So Ms. Bobo waged a door-to-door campaign unlike any other in her political career, prevailing Tuesday in a three-way primary. In 1978 and 1982, when she won County Council elections, and in 1986 when she was elected county executive, she had always campaigned countywide.

The primary in the new District 12B allowed her to take a more personal approach to a very hard-fought campaign.

Ms. Bobo said she visited about 5,000 of the districts approximately 6,800 homes of Democrats, beginning in May.

"I finished up on the street that I live on the night before the election."

But that shoe leather was supplemented with a campaign fund that made 12B the most expensive delegate campaign in the county. In four years, Ms. Bobo raised $44,286, but her strongest opponent, Rosemary Mortimer, raised $46,897 overall, $30,000 of which she lent her campaign, and the lowest vote-getter, Ethel Hill, raised $31,947.

Ms. Mortimer used some of that money to send mailings attacking Ms. Bobo's record. One, entitled "Cinema Classics," features a likeness of the Creature from the Black Lagoon behind the words, "The deficit that ate Howard County."

Inside, text discussing the former executive's budgets concludes with, "Do you really want to see the sequel: "The deficit that ate the State of Maryland?"

Ms. Mortimer won two precincts in areas such Elkridge and Ellicott City, where the oddly shaped district runs along Montgomery Road, but lost in all but two of west Columbia's 11 precincts. In eight of those Columbia precincts, she came in third, usually well behind Ms. Hill, who was in third place overall.

In District 14, Democratic nominee James P. Mundy, who easily defeated a primary opponent from Montgomery County, said he's been mounting a challenge against Mr. McCabe for the last 2 1/2 years.

He said the Nov. 8 general election will offer a clear choice between the candidates' differing views on education, gun control, abortion and health care.

With Mr. Yeager losing, Mr. McCabe stresses his experience and ability to provide continuity with the Republican-controlled delegation and Republican county executive to secure money for school construction and road projects to the county.

Although he didn't have the deep pockets that Ms. Bobo's opponents had, Republican John B. Clark took on Mr. Kittleman and Mr. Flanagan with a vengeance in District 14B, capturing about 29 percent of the vote, only about 6 percentage points behind Mr. Kittleman's total.

Even yesterday, with all precincts reported, Mr. Clark would not concede defeat, preferring to wait until absentee ballots are counted.

Even if he has lost, he said, he will continue to dog the district's incumbents on the conservative agenda he believes the district's residents adhere to.

"I woke them up a little bit, strengthened their position, and I intend to be in Democrats' and Republicans' face for the next four years so we can maintain the campaign promises they've made going into the primary," said Mr. Clark. who said he has not decided whether he can support the incumbents in their November contest against Democratic nominees Carolyn "Casey" Willis and Andy Levy.

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