Democrat has hard fight for House in District 14B 2 Republican incumbents have leadership positions, strong past voter support

Campaign 1998

October 21, 1998|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

The Ellicott City condominium complex stood ominously before Bill Woodcock the other afternoon.

Of 30 households, only six had registered Democrats.

That's not good news for Woodcock, a Democratic candidate running for a House of Delegates seat in a district that has solidly backed two Republican incumbents in the past three elections.

Not only that, those Republicans hold powerful leadership positions in the Maryland General Assembly: Robert H. Kittleman, the minority leader, and Robert L. Flanagan, the minority whip.

"I didn't get into this blind," said Woodcock, 31, of Ellicott City. "I'm not foolhardy enough to think I'll out-raise and spend the minority leader."

District 14B is expansive: from the Baltimore County line on the east into Montgomery County on the west.

Comfortable margins

During the past two races in this two-seat district, Kittleman and Flanagan won by comfortable margins over their Democratic opponents. More than 60 percent of the voters cast their ballots for both in 1994.

But Woodcock, president of the Ellicott City Democratic Club, said he can change that with a little sweat and sneaker rubber. He said he has been working hard, ignoring rumors in his party that he's running only to fill out the ticket.

The other day, wearing a Woodcock for House shirt, black jeans and black tennis shoes, Woodcock lightly knocked on doors in Ellicott City. Most residents were at work or shopping, it seemed, forcing Woodcock to leave a campaign flier and sign it: "Sorry I missed you, Bill."

Like many candidates, Woodcock is running on a platform of education, public safety and responsibility of elected officials.

Better mortgage rates

He said he doesn't want to just "throw money at a problem" and would push the state to encourage banks to offer better mortgage rates to county employees who have a hard time affording Howard County.

Woodcock, a manager at a nonprofit that raises money for medical research, has raised about $12,000, he says.

By the end of August, Kittleman had raised nearly $62,000 and Flanagan more than $17,000, according to the campaign finance reports filed early last month.

Though Woodcock is trying to raise issues that resonate with voters, the Republican incumbents said residents care far more about leadership.

"It's unheard of for one county to have [delegates] who hold two leadership positions in the minority party," Kittleman said. "Because of our positions, we've made a real difference."

Kittleman also said controversies surrounding growth and education rest squarely on the shoulders of county governments, not the General Assembly.

"There's not a lot the state does" on those issues, said Kittleman, 72, who raises beef cattle on 116 acres in West Friendship and has been in the legislature since 1983.

Flanagan, an attorney who will be 53 before election day, said he is trying to spearhead an effort to reform teachers' tenure and boost aid for local school systems, such as Howard's, that are expanding. He has been in the House since 1987.

That campaign afternoon, Kristin Moore carried some groceries into her Ellicott City townhouse after being handed a Woodcock flier.

A registered Independent with two small children and a concern for education and burgeoning development, Moore seemed like the perfect voter for Woodcock to reach.

But Woodcock might want to keep knocking on doors.

"I'm still not sure whom to vote for," Moore said. "I have some reading to do."

Pub Date: 10/21/98

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