County influence remains solid Election results unlikely to affect standing in Annapolis

Strength won't wane

Collins tops Holt, ending Senate race marred by tricks

Election 1998

November 04, 1998|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,SUN STAFF Sun staff writers Howard Libit and Amy Oakes contributed to this article.

Capping a campaign marred by dirty tricks, veteran Democratic state Sen. Michael J. Collins fought off a formidable challenge from Republican Del. Kenneth Holt yesterday, dashing the GOP's hope of capturing its first seat in Baltimore County's east side in three decades.

Final tallies last night showed Collins with 55 percent of the vote, compared with Holt's 45 percent.

"I thought the people were ready to give the younger blood a chance," the 47-year-old Holt, a freshman delegate, told 200 supporters at a hall on Eastern Boulevard. "The people have spoken, and they have spoken loud and clear."

In the western county's 12th District, which straddles Howard and Baltimore counties, incumbent Democratic Sen. Edward J. Kasemeyer defeated Republican David P. Maier in the only other Senate race that had been considered close.

County officials said last night that Democratic victories ensured that Baltimore County's influence in the General Assembly will remain intact.

"If you look at what has happened, our team in Baltimore County has been successful," said County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger last night. "We ran on our record. You can't fool the voters, and the voters thought we had done a good job."

The Sept. 15 primary defeat of Sen. F. Vernon Boozer, a Towson Republican and House minority leader, in the 9th District was seen as a significant blow to the county's standing in Annapolis.

"[The Boozer defeat] was huge because Vernon looked at his local policy first. Home base was taken care of first before partisan politics," Ruppersberger said.

Republicans kept the Senate seat in the 9th District, with Andrew P. Harris, who defeated Boozer in the primary, easily defeating Democrat Anthony O. Blades.

The Holt-Collins race had been watched across the state for evidence that Republicans were making inroads in traditionally Democratic strongholds.

"The 6th District has been trending Republican over the last three voting cycles," said Republican Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., who is considering a run for the U.S. Senate in 2000.

Republicans had hoped to see a slight shift in the House of Delegates, where Democrats hold an overwhelming 100-41 lead. But they saw more potential in the Senate, where Democrats hold a 32-15 advantage. By gaining one seat, the Republicans could sustain a filibuster.

Ruppersberger, a gubernatorial prospect in 2002 who faced only light opposition in his re-election bid this year, worked hard on the east side to boost Collins' chances.

"I worked for Collins, going door to door in my wheelchair about 10 times because it was so close," said Ruppersberger, who had foot surgery this fall.

Ehrlich, who campaigned for Holt, said, "Mike Collins didn't have any coattails to ride on like Kenny. I've done well, Helen Bentley did well, Ellen Sauerbrey -- they have been extremely strong, and Kenny benefits from that strength."

Leaving Middlesex Elementary School yesterday, 69-year-old Lola Williams said, "I'm a Republican, and I voted straight Republican."

But Shirley Hobbs, 57, who works part time as a cook at a day care center, said she split her vote between Sauerbrey and Collins.

Dirty campaign

The race in the 6th District -- a sprawling region of waterfront communities, rural areas and a sliver of southern Harford County -- had been marred by hate mail, bootleg ballots and smear tactics.

"I was not surprised at how ugly the campaign got," Collins said last night at a VFW hall near Back River. "Desperate people will do desperate things."

Mike Pitarra Jr., a Collins volunteer standing outside Fallston Middle School, said yesterday that most voters had made up their minds by the time they arrived at the polls.

"They know who they are going for when they get here. No convincing them," he said. "The garbage can is full of campaign literature from all the candidates."

In the western county's 12th District, Maier, who lost by 2 percent of the vote four years ago, waged a strong campaign against Kasemeyer, 53, a veteran Catonsville Democrat and mortgage banker trying to build on his narrow 1994 victory.

Maier, of Elkridge, kept the pressure on Kasemeyer, accusing him of supporting needle exchanges to combat AIDS and of being a tool of special-interest contributors.

In District 12A, Republican Donald E. Murphy was re-elected to the House along with Democrat James E. Malone Jr., a county firefighter, and newcomer Steven J. DeBoy Sr., a Democrat and retired Baltimore county police officer.

The district's third delegate serves only Howard County.

In the 6th District House race, Democrats Michael H. Weir, Diane DeCarlo and Nancy Hubers won. Democratic incumbents John Arnick, Joseph Minnick and Jacob J. Mohorovic Jr. were re-elected in the 7th District.

Baltimore County's tight grip on legislative leadership positions -- particularly in the money committees -- underscores the region's power base and ultimately Ruppersberger's power connection to Annapolis.

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