Fundamentalist battles mainline Protestant

October 16, 1994|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Sun Staff Writer

The two candidates for the state Senate race in the district that covers most of Carroll County are opposites in their stands on the issues and in their personal philosophies.

In one ballot spot is Republican incumbent Larry E. Haines, 56, a fundamentalist Christian who opposes all gun control and abortion rights and says teachers unions have too much power and he doesn't think he'll attend any more of their sessions with legislators.

In the other ballot spot is Democratic challenger Cynthia H. Cummings, 52, a mainline Protestant who favors barring gun sales to minors, supports abortion rights and has been vice president or president of the county teachers union for six years. She has pledged to meet with all constituents.

The votes of Carroll County's Christian right likely will figure in this race.

The two candidates are running for the District 5 Senate seat, which includes the Uniontown, Myers, Westminster, Manchester, Hampstead, Woolery's, Freedom and Berrett election districts.

In his first four-year term, Mr. Haines sponsored bills that would have:

* Amended state law to bar social services agencies from investigating parents who spank their children for possible child abuse.

* Exempted church-run child-care centers from state regulations that prohibit any actions that injure children or result in physical pain, including spanking.

* Barred censorship of religious references in classrooms.

Those bills failed.

Mr. Haines said his legislative agenda is based on personal convictions, not influenced by the independent fundamentalist Church of the Open Door, of which he is vice chairman of the church council.

He said he is committed to less government regulation and lower taxes. He signed the Republican "contract" pledging a 6 percent annual property tax cut for the next four years, and said he would cover the estimated $200 million loss in state revenues by cutting the budget, reducing state employment by attrition and freezing hiring at the state Department of Environment.

The freshman senator sponsored bills that passed to make it a felony for adults to bring minors into Maryland to distribute illegal drugs and to add Fentanyl, a depressant pain reliever, to the list of controlled dangerous substances.

Mr. Haines is tied with three other state senators for the second-lowest rating given by the Maryland League of Conservation Voters. He scored 8 out of a possible 100 points, based on his opposition to bills such as requiring farmers to use nutrient management, soil conservation and water quality plans to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus in the Chesapeake Bay.

Mr. Haines pointed to his "number one" rating with Maryland Business for Responsive Government. "To have that rating wouldn't go hand in hand with having a high rating with environmentalists," he said.

A Hampstead man spoke up at one of Ms. Cummings' town meetings with residents. "The thing that we're not getting, that we're begging for, is responsive government," he said.

Ms. Cummings said she was frustrated when Senator Haines closed his doors to teachers who went to Annapolis to lobby legislators. Carroll's House of Delegates members "might not agree with us, but at least they'd listen," she said.

Mr. Haines said several groups make Monday night trips to Annapolis and he had to decide whom to hear. He said he attended an annual Maryland State Teachers Association reception.

Ms. Cummings opposes vouchers that would give tuition tax credits to parents who send their children to private schools.

She said violent criminals should be locked up, but more money should go into crime prevention -- more police on the streets, more children and adults in educational programs.

"If we're spending $5,000 a year to put a kid in school, but $20,000 a year to put a person in prison, that doesn't seem right to me," she said.

Ms. Cummings all but concedes the Christian right vote to Mr. Haines. She figures that means 2,000 to 3,000 votes for him, which she hopes to counter by energizing teachers and Democratic voters.

Don Jansiewicz, a political science professor at Carroll Community College, said he hasn't done any systematic research, but "From what I've picked up over time, the Christian right is a force within Carroll County politics."

Mr. Jansiewicz said his sense is that local fundamentalists are not a strong force in day-to-day politics and probably wouldn't get involved on issues such as zoning or the proposed location of a road.

But on social issues such as abortion rights, "They may become activated."

He said his observations are not judgmental. "Here's a group which is intense in their feelings and they're using tactics which are tried and true," he said.

John S. Calligan, executive director of the Maryland Christian Coalition, said the organization published about 13,000 voters' guides in Carroll County before the September primary election and will probably publish 15,000 to 18,000 for the general election.

He said the guides are distributed at churches.

The Christian Coalition does not endorse specific candidates, but puts out the voters' guides with candidates' responses to questions on such issues as abortion rights, homosexual rights, condom distribution in schools, tuition tax credits for private schools and the death penalty.

Mr. Calligan said he's not sure a direct political organization could accommodate the varied views of Christian Coalition supporters.

For example, the coalition includes Roman Catholics who oppose abortion, gun control and the death penalty, as well as Protestants who oppose abortion and gun control but favor the death penalty, he said.

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