Vote sign: Keep right Candidates working to establish their conservative standing

Party less important

Budget votes, taxes, gun control among issues in District 4B

October 23, 1998|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

In western Carroll and eastern Frederick counties, the correct word politically is "conservative."

The four candidates looking to win General Assembly seats in that district use the word to describe themselves, believing the distinction might be more important even than party affiliation.

Incumbent Republican state Sen. Timothy R. Ferguson of Taylorsville, for example, is running newspaper ads saying he is the real conservative in his race with challenger George Hayes Littrell Jr. of Frederick, who identifies himself as "a good conservative Democrat."

The two House of Delegates candidates say similar things.

"I place an emphasis on my record," says Republican Donald B. Elliott of New Windsor, a three-term incumbent. "I think that my votes and my record of conservatism have been consistent over the past 12 years."

Not to be outdone, Democratic challenger Ann M. Ballard of Mount Airy, a member of the Carroll school board, says, "Basically, I'm very conservative."

But no one is playing that note harder than Ferguson, whose newspaper advertisements feature a picture of the 43-year-old incumbent and GOP gubernatorial candidate Ellen M. Sauerbrey together, smiling broadly.

"In a year when many candidates talk like conservatives, it's good to know that Senator Tim Ferguson actually is a conservative," the ad quotes Sauerbrey as saying.

Budget attack

"George Littrell talks like a conservative, but he couldn't say no to six of eight budgets" when serving in the House of Delegates during the term of Democratic Gov. William Donald Schaefer, Ferguson said.

"Some of those [budgets] exceeded the cost of living," said Ferguson, who beat Littrell in the Senate race four years ago, winning 52 percent of the vote to Littrell's 48 percent. "I would never vote for a budget that exceeds the cost of living" increase.

Littrell voted for "quite a few taxes" on things like guns and tobacco during his 12 years as a member of the House of Delegates from 1982 to 1994, Ferguson said. "If the state were in a dire emergency, I would vote to raise taxes. But the state is not in a dire emergency."

Battle of records

Ferguson's comments point up an unusual feature in the General Assembly races in this district straddling parts of two counties. The challengers, as well as the incumbents, have records to brag about. Or be attacked.

A comparison with Littrell will show that "my record is more conservative than his," said Ferguson, a member of the National Rifle Association and opponent of gun-control laws.

Littrell "voted against some Second Amendment bills," Ferguson said. "I would rather give up my seat in the Senate than go against the Constitution. If a majority of my constituents wanted gun control, I would have to vote against it."

Tackling big issues

Known as something of a maverick in the Senate, Ferguson has submitted a plethora of bills each session -- 26 in one year alone. "I'm not one who tinkers at the edges," he said. "I seek to be bold -- to deal with big issues."

He is especially proud of a bill that exempts farmers from state inheritance taxes, and he wants to exempt them from state income taxes next. "Unless we make them tax-free, we are going to lose more farms," he said.

Ferguson is equally proud of "a tough crime bill that gives judges the discretion to give life without parole to kidnappers who molest children," of having gotten tax credits for people who adopt children and for being "No. 1 in the Senate on tort reform."

Solutions take priority

Littrell, 64, says his record as a problem solver sets him apart. "When I start discussing an issue, I'm looking for a solution and an action plan to get that solution," Littrell said. "I am a person who gets things done."

He points to the Woodsboro bypass in Frederick as an example of his ability to work with the public and local and state agencies to solve difficult problems.

"The state was not going to build a bypass, so I was looking for a solution," he said. "I went to a quarry owner, and they agreed to contribute the stone products -- almost $2 million. The county commissioners contributed $500,000 and the town of Woodsboro contributed $150,000, but we were still short. The state, surprised that we had gone so far, found the funds to complete a $5.5 million project. I was able to bring all that together."

hed Tough on crime

Littrell also points proudly to his record in the House, saying he was responsible for "a dozen crime bills, most dealing with victims' rights." He sought legislation that would require criminals to serve 80 percent of their sentences.

The legislature settled on 50 percent, but "I would like to get that up to 75 percent for violent crimes," he said. "Early release is rarely the right answer. Nothing changes till around age 50."

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