GOP legislators labeled naysayers by challengers CAMPAIGN 1994

November 06, 1994|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Sun Staff Writer

Will the real Howard County Republican legislators in Annapolis please stand up?

Democratic candidates challenging for their seats portray the five Republican incumbents as fringe players, marching off a cliff on key social issues, failing miserably on their individual initiatives and playing Monday-morning quarterback by rejecting major legislation without offering alternatives.

"Howard County is the Rodney Dangerfield of the General Assembly," said James P. Mundy, a Democrat trying to oust Republican Sen. Christopher J. McCabe from District 14, which includes Ellicott City and western Howard.

"We have three little Newt Gingriches" from District 14, Mr. Mundy said, referring to the conservative Georgia congressman. the politics of anger. All they do is say 'no' to everything."

In addition, the Republican-dominated delegation has been fiscally irresponsible and hypocritical, said Elizabeth Bobo, a Democratic candidate for delegate in District 12B. The delegation consistently has urged spending and tax cuts while asking for more and more state money for schools, roads and other projects, she charges.

"It doesn't work for a family budget, and it doesn't work for business," she said.

But ask the Republican incumbents about their accomplishments and positions in the State House, and you'll get an entirely different picture.

They depict themselves as fierce independents who have helped revive a moribund Maryland Republican Party, protected citizens' pocketbooks against tax increases and larger government, and opposed legislation they consider unnecessary or expensive, no matter how popular.

"There's an important role as a minority voice," Mr. McCabe said. "We can oppose things that don't make sense, but that doesn't make headlines. It's a lot more difficult to get positive recognition for opposing things."

Democrat Andrew Levy, who is challenging District 14B incumbents Robert L. Flanagan and Robert H. Kittleman, whom he calls "the two Bobs," sees it differently.

'A different drummer'

"I have a sense my two opponents are marching to the beat of a different drummer," Mr. Levy said. "They're marching right off a cliff, and when they look back, the band isn't there anymore."

But the Republicans said they've worked well within the delegation and with the Howard County executive and council, resulting in more state school and road construction money per resident for the county than any other region. They said they see no conflict between acting as watchdogs on state spending and lobbying for Howard construction projects.

The Howard delegation is an anomaly -- the only Republican-led contingent from the Washington or Baltimore areas in a state legislature made up of 154 Democrats and 34 Republicans this year.

Howard County accounts for one of every seven Republicans in Annapolis, but only one of every 27 legislators overall.

Of the six Howard incumbents on Tuesday's ballot, the only Democrat is Del. Virginia M. Thomas, who's trying to move up to the District 13 Senate seat.

The Democratic challengers have thrown darts at the records of the Republican incumbents -- Dels. Flanagan, Kittleman, Martin G. Madden and John S. Morgan and Senator McCabe.

They've attacked the incumbents for conspicuous votes in opposition to several high-profile, comprehensive bills. For example:

* Howard's four Republican delegates are the only ones to oppose this year's Domestic Violence Act, which increased protections for victims. The delegates opposed a provision equating mental injury with physical and sexual abuse.

* Mr. Flanagan and Mr. Kittleman are two of four delegates statewide who voted against this year's welfare reform pilot program, which would have placed some restrictions on welfare payments in three jurisdictions. The bill was vetoed by the governor.

The delegates said the reform effort -- one of many bills they said pass merely because of an impressive-sounding title -- was severely weakened by the elimination of a cap on benefits for recipients who have additional children while on welfare.

* Mr. McCabe and the four delegates voted against the Health Insurance Reform bill in 1993, a voluntary program that guarantees health insurance coverage for small businesses and stabilizes their rates. Two of 47 senators and 14 of 141 delegates voted against the bill. The Howard legislators said they were concerned the measure would increase health care costs and control wages.

'Herd mentality'

"There's a real herd mentality in Annapolis," said Mr. Kittleman, a Republican District 14B representative and the House minority party whip.

Added Mr. Flanagan: "Those are instances when we stood up for what we thought was right. I don't consider that a fringe function."

But Democrat Levy said such votes are earning the Republicans a reputation as "gadflies."

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