Dividing line in campaign is Christian right views

October 23, 1994|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Sun Staff Writer

The District 4 state Senate campaign this year -- like the race in Carroll's larger Senate district -- pits a candidate whose views align with the Christian right against a candidate who differs with it.

Democrat George H. Littrell Jr., 60, an 11-year member of the House of Delegates from Frederick, disagrees with evangelical Christian voters on some social issues. Mr. Littrell faces Republican Timothy R. Ferguson, 39, a Taylorsville resident whose answer to whether he identifies himself as a candidate of the Christian right is, "I speak their language."

District 4 is dominated by 17 Frederick County election districts, plus the Taneytown, Middleburg, Union Bridge, New Windsor, Franklin and Mount Airy districts in Carroll County.

In District 5, which covers most of Carroll, incumbent Republican Larry E. Haines, church council vice chairman at the Church of the Open Door, opposes gun control and abortion rights. Democrat Cynthia H. Cummings, a mainline Protestant, favors abortion rights and would prohibit gun sales to minors.

Mr. Ferguson is a member of the Mount Airy Full Gospel Church, an independent Pentecostal church. He said he compartmentalizes politics and religion in his life.

But he opposes abortion rights, favors restoring prayer in public schools and wants to cut government spending on social services, positions similar to those articulated by Ralph Reed, national executive director of the Christian Coalition.

If elected, Mr. Ferguson said, he plans to introduce a nonbinding resolution opposing abortion except in cases of rape, incest or risk to the mother's life. "I want to change minds," he said.

Mr. Ferguson also wants to cut government spending on social services. Asked whether welfare dependency would be increased if low-income women who become pregnant because birth control methods fail and they cannot obtain abortions, he responded, "If the welfare rolls are going to mushroom because a lot of women bring forth children, I don't know what to say."

On reflection, he said, the possible effect would not alter his opposition to abortion rights.

Mr. Littrell, a deacon in the First Baptist Church of Frederick is pro-choice. He said his position is, "Government should not enter into this decision between a woman and her doctor."

Mr. Littrell sees the economy as the state's most critical issue. "In the 1980s, there was a notion that service industries could replace manufacturing," he said. "The experts said it didn't matter whether you made computer chips or potato chips."

But experience in the 1990s showed that the service industries didn't have the spinoffs manufacturing has and that the recession hit service jobs hard.

Mr. Littrell plans to reintroduce a bill he sponsored in the last General Assembly session that would require an impact statement on any legislation that would affect small businesses. Gov. William Donald Schaefer vetoed the bill.

Mr. Littrell said he believes legislators have passed some bills without realizing they would hurt small businesses. For example, he said, the forest conservation law, which requires developers to compensate for trees they cut down, has driven up housing costs.

Mr. Littrell is president of Doubletree Enterprises Inc., which puts up prefabricated houses.

Maryland Business for Responsive Government rated Mr. Littrell at 88 out of a possible 100 in the 1994 General Assembly session, based on his votes for such measures as reducing the employer surcharge on unemployment insurance; state rather than local regulation of pesticides; and barring fines for less serious first-time violations of the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health Act.

The Maryland League of Conservation Voters scored Mr. Littrell at 10 out of a possible 100, based on his votes favoring a $10 million liability cap for anyone responsible for an oil spill in the Chesapeake Bay; favoring letting lot owners cut trees that were protected under a developer's conservation plan; and opposing a requirement for new cars to meet strict emissions standards.

Mr. Ferguson traced what he sees as the decline of public education to the Supreme Court ruling that banned school prayer in the 1960s. He said he would abolish the Maryland State Board of Education because of what he sees as its tendency to funnel "layers upon layers of papers" to county school systems.

He would also abolish Maryland's Tomorrow, a program aimed at helping students considered in danger of dropping out of school to graduate.

Mr. Ferguson charged that after six years of the program, "they have yet to do an assessment. That tells me it's not working. If it were, we'd have heard about it."

He said the program costs $63,000 a year per pupil.

Larry Chamblin, State Department of Education spokesman, said the program has been assessed. The most recent assessment went to the General Assembly in June, he said.

He said the study of 50 randomly chosen high schools showed that in 59 percent of the schools, Maryland's Tomorrow students had higher graduation rates than at-risk students who attended those schools before the program started.

Mr. Chamblin said the average extra cost per year for each student in the program is $3,827. He said the state has no cost close to Mr. Ferguson's figure.

Mr. Ferguson is an engineering consultant with International Business Machines Corp. in Rockville. He graduated from Eastern Vocational-Technical High School in Baltimore and studied computer-aided drafting at Broome Community College of New York.

Mr. Littrell retired in 1984 as principal of Linganore High School. He earned a bachelor's degree from Atlantic Christian College in and a master's degree from East Carolina University in 1961.

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