Meeder launches bid for House of Delegates He joins GOP team attempting to topple incumbent Democrats

May 05, 1998|By Gady A. Epstein | Gady A. Epstein,SUN STAFF

Though Democrats outnumber them 5 to 3 in House of Delegates District 13A, Republicans think they might have a chance in the district, which takes in east Columbia and much of southern Howard County.

Hans K. Meeder is hoping voters there will cross party lines. He announced his candidacy for a House seat last night, characterizing himself as a tax-cutting, reform-minded conservative who wants to serve constituents the way businesses serve customers.

"Today, we're going to start reaching out," said Meeder, speaking at a baseball-themed "Opening Day" fund-raiser at the Apple Ford dealership on Snowden River Parkway. "I need your vote, and I need your help."

The east Columbia Republican is running with 1994 GOP candidate Michael Grasso in the hopes of toppling first-term Democrats Shane Pendergrass and Frank S. Turner in the two-member district.

Grasso's surprisingly strong finish last time around -- coming within 730 votes of beating Turner -- upset the conventional wisdom that Democrats were assured of winning the district.

Meeder faces a more difficult challenge than Grasso did in 1994, when no incumbent was running there and Republicans did well nationwide. But now that Pendergrass and Turner are incumbents, Meeder plans to make them defend their voting records.

Meeder took some opening shots at Pendergrass and Turner in his speech last night.

He criticized them on ethics legislation, which Republicans are trying to make an election-year issue. He said they voted to kill a bill that would have empowered the state prosecutor to investigate legislators.

Pendergrass said yesterday that she and Turner voted procedurally not to bring up the bill after it had been killed in committee.

Meeder, 36, may be a first-time candidate, but he is no newcomer to politics. Raised in the District of Columbia suburbs, he worked for former U.S. Defense Secretary Dick Cheney and Republican U.S. Sen. Connie Mack of Florida when they were congressmen. He also served as director of education policy for a congressional committee before becoming a self-employed education consultant on federal programs.

He garnered some early publicity while preparing his Assembly bid, organizing a well-attended Howard County PTA forum on reading instruction last November.

But to beat either Democratic incumbent, Meeder will need money. He has raised more than $15,000 so far, including $4,000 at the fund-raiser last night.

The Democrats aren't taking any chances. A fund-raiser for Turner later this month is expected to feature Gov. Parris N. Glendening, Maryland's U.S. senators and other high-profile elected officials.

Pub Date: 5/05/98

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