Setting off a political battle over northern Anne Arundel County, Democratic Councilman James "Ed" DeGrange Sr. announced yesterday that he plans to challenge state Sen. C. Edward Middlebrooks in November 1998.
DeGrange is a 47-year-old homebuilder and former vice president of a family-owned Glen Burnie lumber store that closed in 1995 after being hurt, he said, by competition from national chains such as Wal-Mart.
During a fund-raiser attended by 650 supporters at Michael's Eighth Avenue banquet hall in Glen Burnie yesterday afternoon, DeGrange said he hopes to push for state legislation that would help small businesses.
DeGrange has been an advocate for the redevelopment of downtown Glen Burnie and is perhaps the most outspoken Democrat on the Republican-majority County Council.
Middlebrooks, a 42-year-old attorney and a former County Council member, prides himself on his efforts to help fight crime blamed on the light-rail line that runs to Ferndale from Baltimore.
"Why am I running? The issue is commitment. There is what I perceive to be a lack of commitment from the current state senator," DeGrange said in an interview. "I would be more responsive to constituents and more of a voice for the small businesses that support our local people."
Middlebrooks, who was elected to represent the 32nd District in 1994, said he has been highly committed to law enforcement and transportation issues in the Glen Burnie area.
He said he played an important role in persuading Gov. Parris N. Glendening to announce this summer that the state would assign a security officer to every light-rail train and install video cameras in stations.
"I think this was a substantial victory, because crime was spreading not only onto the trains but also into the community," Middlebrooks said. "We hope these measures will address that problem."
DeGrange said his most important actions during his four years on the County Council have been to encourage a building project that will bring a 54-unit apartment complex, grocery store, skating rink and art center to downtown Glen Burnie.
He said he was first motivated to run for office in 1994 because Middlebrooks, the councilman who then represented the area, failed to play an active role in supporting the revitalization of the downtown.
In one of the first shots of the campaign, Maryland Republican Party Chairwoman Joyce Lyons Terhes sent out a news release urging DeGrange to step down from the County Council because he has a "conflict of interest" as a builder and a councilman.
DeGrange said he would not resign, but would continue his practice of declining to vote on ordinances that could affect his properties or business.
Pub Date: 9/22/97