Republicans face uphill battle against incumbents in District 32 House race CAMPAIGN 1994

October 19, 1994|By Consella A. Lee | Consella A. Lee,Sun Staff Writer

The Democratic candidates for House of Delegates in District 32, according to two of their Republican rivals, are government bureaucrats, incapable of representing their constituents because they must abstain from voting on certain issues.

But, the Democrats counter, those Republicans, Gerald P. Starr, 53, and James E. Rzepkowski, 23, could find themselves in the same fix. Mr. Starr is a real estate agent and Mr. Rzepkowski is an office manager for an insurance company. They would have to abstain from votes on issues affecting their industries.

Meanwhile, Michael W. Burns, 36, an independent Republican candidate, distances himself from such talk, continuing to run the quiet race that gained him a second-place finish behind Mr. Rzepkowski in the September primary.

He says he doesn't believe in slates.

The Democrats say they are proud of their careers in government.

In fact, their inside knowledge of government gives them an edge over the Republican rivals, they say.

vTC Thomas M. Dixon III, 45, a personnel manager for the Maryland Automobile Insurance Fund (MAIF), has worked for the state for 20 years.

Incumbents Victor A. Sulin, 52, and Mary Ann Love, 55, have had long careers in county government.

Mr. Sulin works in the county Department of Planning and Code Enforcement and Mrs. Love works in the county Department of Aging. She was chosen in June 1993 by the county Democratic Central Committee to finish the term of the late Patrick C. Scanello.

Daryl Jones of Democratic Central Committee argued that the GOP campaign literature portraying the Democrats as government bureaucrats may not pack the wallop hoped for.

"They are not complaining about them because of the jobs they have done," Mr. Jones said. "But they are complaining about them because of the jobs they hold.

"It's something you'd expect to find on the bottom line of a piece of campaign literature when you have nothing else to say," he said. "My reading is they don't have a hold of the issues."

To win, the Republicans must hold their conservative base and pull independent voters and conservative Democrats to their side.

But they are running against two entrenched incumbents and a relative newcomer who has been involved in community work for 20 years on a ticket with incumbent state Sen. Michael J. Wagner.

And they are in a district that includes Linthicum, Severn, Glen Burnie, Hanover, Harmans and Maryland City and has been a Democratic stronghold for at least 20 years.

Mr. Rzepkowski and Mr. Starr, neither of whom have held elected office, are running on a ticket with C. Edward Middlebrooks, the outgoing County Council chairman who is trying to unseat Mr. Wagner.

Despite the Democrats' advantages, Republican leaders, who have fielded a full slate in the District for the first time, believe they stand a chance of winning.

"I really feel in District 32 it's an open race," said Helen Fister, Republican Central Committee chairman.

All of the District 32 Republican candidates support gubernatorial candidate Ellen R. Sauerbrey's proposal to cut state income taxes by 24 percent over four years.

They also hope to benefit from her popularity.

Mr. Burns, who started his political career at the age of 10 by helping his father staff the polling place at Overlook Elementary School, ran unsuccessfully in 1982 for the House of Delegates from Baltimore County while he was a student at Towson State University.

He works in the alumni development office at the University of Maryland at Baltimore and says he is in the race because he believes "if you want to influence the system, you really have to be a part of it."

His stance is not much different from the other two Republicans. Or the Democrats, for that matter.

They all support tougher mandatory sentences, without plea bargaining for violent offenders and drug dealers, a victims' rights amendment and welfare reform. And they all agree that taxes are too high.

But the Republicans favor term limits and the Democrats don't.

Mr. Rzepkowski, of Pasadena, who had an internship with state Sen. John A. Cade during the 1992 legislative session, concedes some thought he was too green and too young to run for office.

But he was the top vote-getter in the Republican primary in District 32.

"I bring a fresh new perspective and I haven't been in office before," he said. "It's new blood and freshness of ideas."

Mr. Starr, president of the Linthicum Shipley Improvement Association, complains that the District 32 delegates were slow to respond to the concerns of residents that light rail was bringing crime to North County.

County police and the Mass Transit Administration took steps to curb the problem, but the issue did not come into focus until after his association voted in May to ask the MTA to close the Linthicum Heights station, he said.

Mr. Starr says he would be a full-time delegate, unlike his Democratic rivals. But Mrs. Love says she would be, too.

She said she plans to retire from her county job if elected. "It's difficult to do the two jobs. The hours are long," she said. "I want to be a delegate and do constituent work and do it well and hopefully learn the process in Annapolis a little better."

Mr. Dixon of Millersville, said he is stressing that he has been involved in community groups for the last 20 years.

He was a member of the Greater Ferndale Civic Association in 1975 and is president of the Village of Olde Mill Community Association.

He says he believes an understanding of communities is a key to being a good delegate. "You need to get some of the background before you just walk in," said Mr. Dixon.

Mr. Sulin, who has worked for the county for 20 years, said the Democrats will run "like we're losing" right through Nov. 8.

The two Republican slate candidates would "make it appear that we're all bureaucrats getting by with our feet up on a desk somewhere," he said.

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