Hollinger stresses drug treatment to attack crime Senate hopefuls in 11th run as fiscal conservatives

October 10, 1994|By Robert A. Erlandson | Robert A. Erlandson,Sun Staff Writer

Sen. Paula C. Hollinger surprised even herself with the magnitude of her primary election victory last month over fellow Sen. Janice Piccinini.

"Did you ever think it would be that much?" asked the legislative veteran, who crushed Ms. Piccinini's bid for a second term by a margin of 11,421 votes to 5,959.

Redistricting caused by population changes in the 1990 census forced Ms. Hollinger and Ms. Piccinini to run in a new, sprawling 11th District that covers most of northern and northwestern Baltimore County.

In the general election, Ms. Hollinger faces Dr. Richard J. Manski, a University of Maryland dentistry professor and political newcomer who had no primary opposition.

Ms. Hollinger, 53, a nurse who has specialized in health care issues during 16 years in the General Assembly, insists that she does not underestimate Dr. Manski's opposition.

But her own convincing primary victory has clearly raised her confidence level, and she's running on a unity ticket with three new Democratic House candidates.

"It will be a younger, sharper delegation," particularly if there is a Democratic sweep, she said.

An energetic campaigner, Ms. Hollinger said she was encouraged to find that her new district contained so many former constituents who have moved to Owings Mills from Pikesville and Randallstown.

While Republicans frequently take swipes at her, Ms. Hollinger, a Washington native who has lived in Baltimore County for 30 years, has few real political enemies.

"Even though she is a liberal, Paula and I were able to work together because she researches issues thoroughly and is very reasonable," said former Sen. Francis X. Kelly, a conservative Democrat who turned Republican after losing his seat to Ms. Piccinini in 1990.

Ms. Hollinger agrees with her opponent that crime -- from epidemic car theft to violent robberies -- is the primary issue among voters. She called drug abuse the driving force behind violent crime and said dealing with drug abuse as a criminal problem rather than a medical problem has been a failure.

"I'm for building all the prisons we need, but treatment has to be available," she said.

She called for a debate and study of proposals to decriminalize drugs. "People are open to the medicalization of drugs, not to legalization, but to take the profit out of it."

She noted that Maryland's methadone treatment programs -- which provide addicts with methadone to satisfy their habits without resorting to crime -- have a six-month waiting list. While they're waiting, she said, addicts often continue their criminal activity.

"It would be cheaper to give addicts heroin or crack until they can get on a treatment program. It would be safer, too. People are so scared [of crime] now that they want the debate," Ms. Hollinger said.

With national health care reform dead in Congress, Ms. Hollinger returned to a favorite theme -- letting states establish their own health care reform plans.

"States have more willingness to do their own health care reform," she said. "Congress should get off the dime and mandate reform in each state by a date certain, then let the states decide what they need. Each state has different problems. Where there is a good system, don't change it."

Although Ms. Hollinger voted against a Schaefer administration tax increase in 1992, Republicans -- including gubernatorial candidate Ellen Sauerbrey -- have attacked her for voting for the spending programs that led to the tax increase.

Ms. Hollinger scoffs at those attacks. Under Maryland's system, "We don't vote on programs, we vote on the budget," she said. Although she is a liberal on social issues, she said, "I'm a real fiscal conservative" and boasted of a 70 percent pro-business rating from Maryland Business for Responsive Government, a pro-business lobbying group.

She also called for a restoration of higher education budget cuts, particularly in community colleges.

"The community colleges have gotten a raw deal throughout the recession, and they are training and re-training people in the skills for the jobs that exist," Ms. Hollinger said.

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