Ever the politician, Leopold keeps his options open House contract may signal a run in District 32

Campaign 1998

September 21, 1997|By Consella A. Lee | Consella A. Lee,SUN STAFF

Del. John R. Leopold, a District 31 Republican, believes in keeping his options open.

That's why he's taken out a contract on a house in Fox Chase in Republican state Sen. C. Edward Middlebrooks' District 32 in Glen Burnie, setting up a potential fight, even though he still has his Pasadena home. And he says he may or may not run for county executive, a position he has sought before.

"It's unlikely that I would run in District 32 in light of the fact that my own constituents have made it clear they want me to run for them," Leopold said Friday. But he added, "I never close the door on anything until filing time."

His Pasadena house has been on the market for eight weeks. State election laws require state Senate candidates to live for six months in the district in which they are running. The primary election will be held next year.

Meanwhile, Middlebrooks said he isn't worried about Leopold's new Glen Burnie house.

"We think we've done a pretty good job and been out there on the issues, including light rail, and think people realize that. At this point, we're more worried about doing the things we got elected to do rather than worrying about an election that's a year away."

Leopold began distributing campaign literature six months ago in District 32. None of it says what office he's running for.

The literature shows a smiling Leopold greeting potential voters, next to remarks from Marie Scanello, his honorary chairwoman, and wife of the late Del. Patrick Scanello of District 32.

"John Leopold is a people person, and his constituents come first," Scanello said. "He has proven his legislative ability and effectiveness."

Carolyn Roeding, president of the Greater Pasadena Council and Pasadena Traffic Safety Committee, said, "I never hear anything negative about John Leopold. He's always available when I call to talk to him. He's always attended the [community meetings]. He's always been helpful."

But he also makes his presence known, appearing all over the county, Roeding said.

"There isn't anybody who's better at running for office than John Leopold. He's got it down to a science," she said.

But other Arundel residents and those involved in county politics portray Leopold differently.

"John is an opportunist," said Democratic state Sen. Philip C. Jimeno of District 31. Leopold ran against Jimeno and lost in 1990. Leopold ran for the district Senate seat after first leading contributors to believe he was running for county executive.

The switch prompted donors, including County Councilman Thomas W. Redmond Sr. and Bruce C. Bereano, a lobbyist and attorney, to ask for their contributions back.

Leopold, who had made an unofficial run for county executive in 1986, collected $163,354 from contributors -- more than triple any other General Assembly candidate. He offered to return contributions to anyone who asked.

"He'll do whatever it takes to win political office," said Jimeno. "Basically it's a lack of loyalty to people. It's just about wherever he can win a race."

Leopold, who earns $29,700 annually as a Maryland delegate, is a full-time politician. He said he inherited family money and invested well, and he receives a pension for 10 years of elected service in Hawaii.

"Most of us have families to support and businesses to operate," said Jimeno, who owns an insurance company. "But politics is his life."

Ray Kenney, general manager of Pasadena Furniture, lives in District 33 in Severna Park. He said that during the 1994 election, Leopold knocked on his door.

"He was campaigning all over the county. I just think it's misleading that he would campaign in other districts," said Kenney.

Kenney, who says Leopold is at it again, has written letters criticizing the delegate to local newspapers.

"Between now and the filing deadline, county residents will see him throughout Anne Arundel County, along the roadside in his trademark 'Leopold' shirt, greeting passing motorists with that homecoming queen wave and his champion of freedom grin," wrote Kenney.

In an interview Friday, Kenney said he wrote the letters because "I felt Mr. Leopold should be exposed for what he does."

Leopold said the purchase of the house in Fox Chase is contingent on the sale of his Pasadena home.

He said he has talked to more than 3,000 voters in District 32 and feels "confident that if I were to make the necessary investment I would prevail in both the primary and general elections. Many District 32 residents know about my legislative experience, voting record and effectiveness."

Pub Date: 9/21/97

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