District 32 hopefuls emphasize experience House candidates include incumbents, government workers

October 19, 1998|By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan | Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan,SUN STAFF

The battle to represent District 32 in the House of Delegates is a tussle of resume flashing as each candidate has been trying to one-up the other in terms of who has more years of experience working in or with county government.

The six candidates include three incumbents, two prominent former state delegates and a newcomer who says her 23 years of working in the state House of Delegates have given her invaluable back-room insight into how to get things done.

"I will not be an on-the-job learner," said Betty Ann O'Neill, 60, a Republican and the retired chief of staff of the House Ways and Means Committee. "I've been in places where even delegates aren't allowed to go. I've sat in with the leadership in the so-called back room. I'll go in knowing where to get things done and how to get things done more than some other delegates who've been there."

The Democrats are not without state House experience.

"My credentials speak for themselves," said Victor A. Sulin, who was a delegate for the district from 1990 to 1994 and has worked for the county for 25 years as an assistant state's attorney, criminal justice coordinator, Glen Burnie urban renewal director and assistant director of Planning and Code Enforcement. Sulin, 56, is now cable communications director for the county Office of Law.

"I just don't think there is any comparison," Sulin said.

Other candidates on the Democratic ticket for District 32 -- which includes Glen Burnie, Linthicum, Old Mill, Severn and Jessup -- are incumbent Mary Ann Love, 58, and Theodore J. Sophocleus, 59.

Love, who says her campaign slogan "Keep Love in the House" has earned her the envy of her colleagues, became the first woman to represent District 32 when she was appointed in 1993 to fill the position of the late Patrick C. Scannello. She was elected in 1994.

Love retired two years ago as an administrator with the county Department of Aging. She introduced several bills that were passed this term about insurance and health issues, including one that allows HMO participants to use emergency-room services without prior authorization. Love said she will continue to work on health and insurance issues if re-elected.

Sophocleus, a former pharmacist and an administrator at the state's attorney's office, has been a fixture in county politics for decades, having served two terms on the County Council from 1982 to 1990. He also ran unsuccessfully for county executive twice -- narrowly losing to Robert R. Neall in 1990 and John G. Gary in 1994.

On the Republican side, O'Neill is joined by two incumbents -- Michael W. Burns, 40, and James E. Rzepkowski, 27, the youngest member of the General Assembly.

Burns, an attorney who has a private practice, and Rzepkowski, manager of an insurance company, both emphasized that they've fought for their constituents on several issues, including getting state funds for noise abatement projects for communities near Baltimore-Washington International Airport and fighting the extension of the light rail line into Glen Burnie, which would have required demolition of some houses.

Burns pointed out that he has introduced bills that were passed to increase the penalties for smuggling drugs into Maryland -- significant in District 32, where the airport often is a gateway for drugs -- and hit-and-run driving.

Rzepkowski said he has fought to reduce personal income-tax rates and closing costs for home purchases -- which he says affects people of his generation who want "a piece of that American dream."

Both candidates said they would work on funding for school construction and renovation in their district if re-elected.

"There are some prominent names on the other side and they have the ability to raise lots of special-interest money," Rzepkowski said. "But I have a four-year record that I am so very proud of in representing the constituents to a fault and fighting for their issues."

Burns said he thinks the election will go well for the Republicans.

"In 1994, the people voted the deadwood out of office," Burns said, referring to Sulin and Sophocleus. "I can't imagine in 1998 they're going to want to vote the deadwood back into office."

Sulin said he is asking people to "look at the record," noting that Rzepkowski has not had any bills that he introduced in the House passed -- which a legislative researcher at the House confirmed.

"They had an opportunity to do the same things we did, and I think the record reflects that we provided the leadership, we brought home the necessary funds," Sulin said. "When you compare the record, it becomes clear why people should vote for us."

Pub Date: 10/19/98

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