Political newcomers vie for delegate seats in 11th CAMPAIGN 1994

October 12, 1994|By Robert A. Erlandson | Robert A. Erlandson,Sun Staff Writer

It may have been political naivete, but when Jodi Hammerman said, "I'm speaking realistically," she meant it -- even though it violated conventions of partisan optimism.

Realistically, "something cataclysmic" will have to happen for the Republican Party to capture more than one of three House of Delegate seats in the 11th District of Baltimore County, the 30-year-old attorney and GOP hopeful said.

With Democrats enjoying a 2-to-1 registration edge in the sprawling northwestern district, that cataclysm would have to include a major Democratic defection to more conservative Republican candidates -- traditionally the only way the GOP can win in the county.

Whatever happens in the Nov. 8 election, the 11th will have three new faces in the House after a Democratic primary that saw voters dump four-term incumbent Theodore Levin and two-termer Richard Rynd.

While the new candidates are experienced community activists, and some have have held party positions, none has run for public office before.

The other Republican candidates are Christian Cavey, 38, of Upperco, who owns an insurance agency in Hampstead, and Michael J. Buchanan, 40, a chemist and inventor from Reisterstown who launched his campaign in 1993 and led the Republican field in a seven-way primary.

They will face a trio of Democrats who ran well-organized and well-financed campaigns to win nominations in an eight-candidate primary.

Among the Democrats, Michael Finifter, 36, lawyer and certified public accountant, was the biggest vote-getter in the primary, followed by Dr. Dan K. Morhaim, 45, an emergency-room physician, and Robert L. Frank, 36, a lawyer. All are from the fast-growing Owings Mills area.

On the GOP side, the House candidates span the ideological spectrum. Ms. Hammerman considers herself in the moderate mold of U.S. Rep. Constance A. Morella of Montgomery County. Mr. Cavey is a strong conservative while Mr. Buchanan occupies the middle ground.

They have met with Dr. Richard J. Manski, the GOP Senate candidate, and the four plan to issue some joint campaign literature, post signs together and share poll workers on Election Day.

Kent P. Swanson, the county's GOP State Central Committee chairman, said the Republicans have a strong team in the district. The best chance for success, he said, is for the candidates to focus on areas of agreement and "not what keeps us apart."

The vast new 11th District, which covers the western and northwestern county, was created in the redistricting that followed the 1990 census. Its boundaries were the result of the politics that set up a new, predominantly black 10th District based in Randallstown to the south.

The 11th now includes portions of the heavily Jewish and relatively liberal-voting Pikesville and Owings Mills communities, moderate to conservative areas along the York Road corridor and conservative sections in rural northern communities.

Looking over the Democratic field, Ms. Hammerman said she believes that Mr. Finifter and Dr. Morhaim "are a given" for election but that with a strong and unified party effort, a Republican can beat Mr. Frank.

Mr. Cavey was more optimistic, saying that with a determined effort, the GOP can win two delegate seats. "We've run the numbers several times and it's feasible, although it's not the likeliest scenario," he said.

The Democrats concede nothing. They predict that their unified ticket, with Sen. Paula C. Hollinger, will sweep the legislative seats, as well as the County Council races in the 2nd and 3rd Districts, which lie within the boundaries of the 11th.

Mr. Finifter, a Baltimore County native, said Democrats are becoming more fiscally conservative, particularly with the prospect of a large budget deficit confronting the new governor and General Assembly.

"We need to pay more attention to the bottom line," he said. "We need to tighten the belt."

Sounding a similar fiscal note, Mr. Frank said that government spending must be "wise spending" because "free spending doesn't work" and "we don't have the luxury of raising taxes."

Mr. Frank, a Pikesville native who earned an engineering degree before entering law school, said government's most important function is to provide quality public education that produces workers and provides an alternative to crime. Investing in children is better than building prisons, although public safety is a vital concern, he said.

Dr. Morhaim, who grew up in Los Angeles and moved to the county 20 years ago, said government can act as a catalyst and source of encouragement, but it must act strategically. It must not attempt "to do everything for everybody," he said. As president of a growing medical practice, Dr. Morhaim said he would bring a perspective to the General Assembly of a physician who daily sees the effects of crime and appreciates the problems of a small-business man.

On the GOP side, Mr. Buchanan, considered the best bet for a Republican seat, said he is fiscally conservative but pragmatic on other issues. "I would look at every bill, not the philosophy behind it," he said.

A chemist who specializes in workplace safety, Mr. Buchanan said the election offers a "very well-defined" difference between Republicans and Democrats.

On crime issues, Mr. Buchanan said the use of plea bargaining should be restricted, and he disagrees with Democrats who believe drug-treatment programs are an effective deterrent to crime.

He said he's against tightening of Maryland's gun-control laws and that emphasis should be on control of criminals, including the construction of more prisons.

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