County incumbents offer tough challenge But novices undeterred in 5th, 6th districts

October 13, 1998|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

At first glance, the Baltimore County Council's two most experienced politicians -- both Democrats -- would appear to be formidable targets for the pair of novice Republicans trying to unseat them.

In the 5th District, Perry Hall Democrat Vincent J. Gardina has two terms behind him, a healthy campaign treasury and bragging rights for everything from the demolition of the Riverdale apartments to tighter regulations of tattoos.

Likewise, 6th District incumbent Joseph Bartenfelder of Fullerton -- a former three-term state delegate and a farmer with deep roots in the northeastern county -- expects to retain his seat.

But their challengers are undeterred. Allen Thompson, who is seeking the 5th District seat, and Glen A. Thomas, running in the 6th District, are buoyed by solid Republican support and by their belief that the incumbents have failed to keep close touch with the community.

"This year started out as a year for incumbents -- but that may not be the case," said Thompson, 50, a former president of the Perry Hall Improvement Association who retired this year from a 25-year career in the loan business. "There's a mood out there for new blood. Voters want an independent voice in Towson."

Thomas agrees.

"The last two council members [before Bartenfelder] served one term each," said Thomas, a bearded, 52-year-old, self-employed Phoenix consultant.

The two incumbents, both 42, are well-known and have raised more than $70,000 each, compared with less than $5,000 each reported in September by the Republican candidates. Bartenfelder and Gardina both won comfortable, 5,000-vote victories four years ago.

But Thomas charges that Bartenfelder -- a three-time state delegate -- has not responded to some communities, such as Parkville. He says Bartenfelder rezoned too much land for commercial use along Joppa Road. He even faults Bartenfelder for personally plowing snow with his farm tractor after the blizzard of 1996, instead of making sure county crews did the job.

Bartenfelder has critics among his constituents as well.

"He makes a lot of promises but he doesn't follow through with them. Personally, he's a very nice guy, but he hides behind that and keeps a low profile," said Ruth Baisden, a Parkville woman angry about a zoning decision on her block of Oak Avenue.

But Katherine Tyler Gabriel, a Republican who is vice president of the Long Green Valley Association, defends Bartenfelder, whose district stretches from Fullerton to White Hall.

"He always works with us. He listens to us. He always explains where he stands, and he's extremely responsive," said Gabriel, who has a 20-foot Bartenfelder sign in her yard.

For his part, Bartenfelder argues that while Baisden may be critical of his support for expansion of a business near her home, others in the area took the same position he did. As for his action during the blizzard, Bartenfelder says he plowed the driveways of several elderly neighbors who couldn't get out of their homes.

Gardina, meanwhile, is being accused of not devoting enough attention to his district.

"He's tired. He hasn't really been in touch with the community as much as he should. He has a full-time job," said Thompson, who says he can be a full-time councilman.

Gardina, however, said he has worked to reduce zoning densities throughout the district, to eliminate rundown apartment complexes and to plan for Honeygo, a large new community of homes north of White Marsh.

"I'm happy with the responses I'm getting from constituents," said Gardina, a computer software developer.

"Mostly people look at your record. I feel that legislative bodies should be part-time," he said.

Pub Date: 10/13/98

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