Council control likely to be set in District 3 Guzzone, Hurt step up pace of campaigns as parties seek majority

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

Yesterday's Howard County edition of The Sun incorrectly reported that Guy Guzzone, Democratic candidate for County Council District 3, said he wants to improve compensation for both police officers and firefighters. He has talked about improving compensation only for police officers.

The Sun regrets the error.

The most pivotal County Council race, District 3 in southeastern Howard, will become the highest-profile contest this week, as Democrat Guy Guzzone begins airing television commercials and Republican Wanda Hurt's ads soon follow.

The race to succeed Dennis R. Schrader, who is running for county executive, is considered the most competitive council battle. It pits two moderate candidates with strong financial backing in a Democratic district that elected a Republican in 1994.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

The outcome in District 3 also could determine which party controls the County Council for the next four years, because the other four districts are likely to remain evenly split between Democrats and Republicans.

With so much at stake, leaders of both parties are focusing their energies on the district -- which includes North Laurel, Savage and parts of southeastern Columbia -- and heavy campaign contributions are expected to follow. Both Guzzone and Hurt plan aggressive television and direct-mail campaigns before the election Nov. 3.

The issues of the campaign, as Guzzone's two television commercials make clear, are the boilerplate of suburban politics: growth, education and public safety.

"The things I care about most are my family and my children's future," Guzzone says in an ad due to appear on local cable today that shows him walking with his wife and three children. "That's why I want to help keep our neighborhoods safe, manage growth, preserve open spaces and provide all our children with the best possible education."

The second commercial, expected to begin airing tomorrow, focuses on growth and praises him as a community "leader in the ongoing fight" against a Rouse Co. project in North Laurel. It says: "Congestion on our roads. Overcrowding in our schools. It doesn't have to be that way."

Hurt's campaign themes are similar, and the former Columbia Council member plans to air at least one television commercial, perhaps as early as next week.

Differences in the candidates' platforms, though, are likely to be detailed in their mailings.

Guzzone, former chairman of the Kings Contrivance Village Board, plans mailings to registered voters' homes. Hurt said she will send pieces to homes of likely voters. Both also plan targeted mailings to smaller groups.

Although Guzzone and Hurt are wary of revealing what their mailings will say, they are expected to deal with many of the topics they have discussed at forums and on voters' doorsteps.

Guzzone criticizes the County Council Republican majority's decision this year to cut the income tax while giving school officials millions of dollars less than they requested -- and he notes that the teachers union endorsed him. He says he would consider rescinding the 4 percent tax cut to find money to reduce class sizes.

Hurt, formerly a Democrat and PTA activist, defends the Republican budget and the tax cut, and talks more about holding schools "accountable" for county funding.

"You can't say that [revenue eliminated by the] tax cut was going to go strictly to education," says Hurt, 55. "That's campaign rhetoric."

Guzzone also talks frequently of boosting the salaries and benefits of police officers and firefighters to keep them from leaving. Hurt hasn't focused on that in her campaign, but in an interview last week she said she wanted to "look at" whether the county's salaries and benefits are competitive.

Both Hurt and Guzzone opposed this year's Rouse Co. rezoning, which sped up plans for a Columbia-style village in North Laurel. They say development should not proceed until adequate roads and schools are in place.

Beyond that, Guzzone offers a few more specifics.

He says he will work to delay a development planned for Fulton, Stewart J. Greenebaum's Iager Farm project, until road and school construction catch up with demand. He takes issue with a county law that allows development until elementary schools are 20 percent over capacity.

Also like some candidates, Guzzone wants to organize a citizen panel to review all development policies. He says his experience as an aide to former Councilwoman Shane Pendergrass, as a Sierra Club director negotiating state land-use legislation, and now as a member of the Southern Howard Land Use Committee fighting the Rouse project, gives him an edge over Hurt on growth issues.

"That's a base of knowledge that can't be matched," says Guzzone, 34. "Growth is a tricky subject. It requires knowledge of economics, of land-use planning."

Hurt says that she doesn't have specific proposals on managing growth differently -- beyond making better use of the tools in place.

"I'm hesitant on campaign promises, because they're so easy to make and so easy to break," she says. "Am I going to look at [development policy]? Yes. How am I going to tweak it? I don't know. Specifically, do I have specifics? No."

Pub Date: 10/05/98

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