Democrat challenges Harris for Senate seat

Brochin attacks record on preservation, class size

May 14, 2002|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,SUN STAFF

Jim Brochin, a Democrat who has been knocking on doors in central Baltimore County for 2 1/2 years as part of an effort to unseat state Sen. Andrew P. Harris, officially announced his candidacy yesterday.

Both men said they plan to run on Harris' record -- he is Baltimore County's only Republican senator and one of the most conservative members of that chamber. As such, he is often on the losing side of votes in the General Assembly.

Brochin, 38, of Towson, said he believes voters will reject Harris if they know his record on key education, environmental and public health issues. The senator has voted against bills to reduce class size in public schools and to fund rural preservation initiatives, Brochin said.

"We need a senator who believes ideas are more important than ideology," Brochin said at his Timonium campaign headquarters.

Harris, who was elected in 1998 in what was then the 9th District and is now the 7th, countered that his votes need to be taken in context. He said he voted against Rural Legacy funding in state budgets because he believed those budgets were fiscally irresponsible.

He said he voted against a bill to reduce class size in 1999 because he didn't think the bill would make a meaningful difference. The next year, he said, he introduced a bill he believed would.

"He knows and the voters know that I support small class size -- I support meaningful small class size," Harris said. "The '99 bill was full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

Brochin, who owns commercial and residential properties, will have help from other Democrats in the race. He is a former legislative analyst for Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, and he ran former state Sen. American Joe Miedusiewski's gubernatorial campaign in 1994. Miedusiewski was on hand for Brochin's announcement yesterday, and Miller will be the host at a fund-raiser for the candidate next month.

"He's got energy, enthusiasm and an incumbent's voting record all working in his favor," Miller said. "His incumbent is a medical doctor who votes to protect big tobacco and gun manufacturers. ... It's a conservative district he's running in. I don't think it's that conservative."

Brochin estimated that he has knocked on 8,000 doors in the district, which includes Towson, Timonium and Cockeysville and stretches through northeastern Baltimore County and southwestern Harford County. He said he has been well-received, but Brochin faces a significant fund-raising gap and a heavily Republican district.

"I told him he couldn't have picked a tougher district to run in," Miedusiewski said. "But he's drawn a line in the sand, and he's got his issues he believes in."

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