Hopefuls court ethnic voters

Candidates broaden base with fund-raisers and translations

March 31, 2002|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Howard County's growing diversity is popping up in this year's political campaigns, from next week's Muslim-sponsored fund-raiser for County Executive James N. Robey, to the Spanish and Chinese translations Republican Steven H. Adler is promising for his Web site.

"We're going to try to be diverse," Adler said, Robey's rival for county executive. He says he is planning to upgrade his Web site to link the activities of all Republicans in the county and offer translations in Spanish, Chinese and perhaps eventually Korean.

Robey's coming fund-raiser at a Columbia hotel follows a smaller one sponsored by Korean-American members of the community and a large business-sponsored event in January.

Different ethnic groups "keep coming and asking me if they can help," Robey said Wednesday, shrugging as he prepared to cut the ribbon opening a Sun Trust bank on Snowden River Parkway.

Robey said there is no reason for him to regard Muslims any differently from other supporters. "They're realists. They want to have a voice," he said.

Anwer Hasan, an environmental engineer originally from Pakistan, said his newly formed Howard County Muslim Council is "working diligently to get Muslims engaged in local communities."

Though the group is nonpartisan, he said, members feel Robey has done a good job maintaining Howard County's status as a clean, prosperous place with an excellent school system. They also feel he is committed to supporting diversity. After the attacks Sept. 11, Robey assigned officers to protect Jewish and Muslim places of worship and has worked through Police Chief Wayne Livesay to guard against any act of perceived retaliation. Robey's staff is diverse, Hasan noted.

"He encourages the different communities to work with him, which is the same objective of our council," Hasan said. "Our children are going to grow up here. They will not know any country other than America."

The 2000 Census showed a 136 percent increase in Asians in the community since 1990, which totaled 19,100 people. That's the greatest increase in Maryland other than in Talbot County, which has 300 Asians.

Asian students make up 20 percent of the enrollment at Centennial High School, around which many Asian immigrants have settled.

Hispanics increased 102.5 percent, to 7,490 people.

More than one-fourth of the county's population are minorities - 67,800 people - the census showed, with Asian, Hispanic and African-Americans the largest groups.

That's why when Republican Anthony C. Wisniewski was thinking about running for the House of Delegates from that area, he talked about campaigning with a Korean translator.

"Diversity is something which can't be ignored in any environment, especially elections," said Wisniewski, a 28-year-old attorney.

And that means immigrants and other ethnic and racial minorities cannot be ceded to the Democrats.

"As far as I'm concerned, what happened yesterday is yesterday. Today is today. The Republican Party is just as inclusive as the Democrats," he said.

Robey said he has about $70,000 in the bank, but he does not expect a huge financial boost from the from the $75-a-ticket affair Hasan is planning.

He plans two events of his own in June and July.

Adler, who has been out waving signs on Route 108 lately, is planning a $100-a-ticket dinner dance at Savage Mill on April 12, and another, less formal event April 22, again at Savage Mill, where he is managing partner.

Adler's Web address is www.adler4hoco.com. The Robey campaign also plans to have a Web site, starting next month, an aide said.

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