GOP nominees gear up for District 34 campaign

September 18, 1994|By Bruce Reid | Bruce Reid,Sun Staff Writer

Nancy Jacobs and her fellow Republican nominees for Harford County's District 34 House of Delegates seats are pumped up about their showing in Tuesday's primary election -- and their chances to put up a good fight against two Democratic incumbents.

All three Republican nominees -- Mrs. Jacobs, Scott Williams and Kenneth A. Thompson -- profess to be confidants or fans of gubernatorial candidate Ellen R. Sauerbrey. The Republican nominee for governor captured just 88 fewer votes in Harford than Rep. Helen Delich Bentley on Mrs. Bentley's home turf.

"She and I are made out of the same mold," Mrs. Jacobs said of Mrs. Sauerbrey. "There isn't an issue we differ on."

"You will see a very visible Republican campaign," said Mrs. Jacobs, a conservative activist and Annapolis lobbyist.

Now that the field of candidates for the three District 34 seats has been narrowed from 10 to six, the Republicans say they will focus on such issues as state spending -- the defining issue of Mrs. Sauerbrey's campaign -- for the November general election.

Mrs. Jacobs, the front-runner among Republicans, received 5,393 votes in the primary -- far more than she had anticipated, and more than all candidates except the two incumbent Democrats.

"The people are ready for controlled spending rather than liberal spending," she said.

Republican Del. David R. Craig, who is giving up his District 34 seat to run for the district's one Senate seat, received fewer than 2,500 votes as his party's front-runner in the 1990 primary election.

The three Democratic nominees -- incumbents Dr. Rose Mary Hatem Bonsack and Mary Louise Preis and B. Daniel Riley -- are promising a unified effort to sweep the three District 34 seats in November.

"I'm looking for a doctor, a lawyer and a teacher in the House," said Mr. Riley, a public school teacher and an Edgewood activist.

Dr. Bonsack, who used a "Keep the doctor in the House" slogan in her campaign, is a physician who said she gained influence on health-care issues during her first term.

Mrs. Preis is a Bel Air lawyer who espouses her accomplishments in shaping bills on domestic violence, stalking and victims' rights.

The Democrats are buoyed by the number of voters in their party -- Democrats hold a 3-2 edge in registered voters -- even though Republicans have gained significant ground in Harford and the district in recent years.

Mr. Riley, who placed third in the primary among the Democrats, picked up 5,263 votes -- nearly as many as Mrs. Jacobs, the top Republican.

With Dr. Bonsack's 7,830 votes -- she led both parties in total votes -- she seems to be in good shape for the general election. Her policies are seen as more moderate than Mrs. Preis'. Even Dr. Bonsack's Republican challengers commend her for her integrity and a well-organized campaign.

But the Republicans clearly are attempting to paint Mrs. Preis as more liberal, claiming that she is against the rights of gun owners, for example.

Mr. Riley, an environmental and community activist making his third try for a seat in the district, is working hard to convince voters that he is "not a stereotypical Democrat."

He said he supports the rights of gun owners and thinks government is generally too intrusive.

Despite their confidence, the Republican nominees are mindful of the incumbents' more substantial financial backing. Both Dr. Bonsack and Mrs. Preis are well-financed by political action committees that represent doctors, lawyers and others.

The Republicans are trying to use their "grass-roots" campaigns to their advantage.

"We know it's not going to be easy," said Mr. Thompson, an Aberdeen motel owner who calls himself a "die-hard Republican."

He is financing most of his campaign himself, and is hoping voters' dissatisfaction with the Democrats' handling of such issues as taxation and the state budget will outweigh their financial advantage.

"I think the good Dr. Bonsack and Mrs. Preis are vulnerable because they represent an ideology that is out of fashion," he said.

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