Schrader begins bid to stay in Senate

GOP incumbent accuses opponent Gray of favoring general tax increase

Howard County

May 15, 2002|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

State Sen. Sandra B. Schrader fired a political broadside yesterday as she announced the start of her campaign to keep her General Assembly seat in what promises to become Howard County's most rancorous campaign.

Speaking to a backyard gathering of more than 40 supporters as dark storm clouds gave way to breezy sunshine over her Kings Contrivance home, Schrader spoke without naming C. Vernon Gray, a Democrat and five-term county councilman who has declared for her state Senate seat. Despite that, her meaning was clear.

"To my opponent, who publicly boasted of having defeated three women in his public career, I have a simple, direct message: This woman is not intimidated and I do not intend on being number four."

FOR THE RECORD - In an article published yesterday in the Howard County edition of The Sun, District 13 state Senate candidate C. Vernon Gray's position on property taxes was incorrectly reported. Gray favors eliminating the state property tax, not all property taxes. The state share of property tax is a very small portion of the entire tax bill. The vast majority of the tax goes to local governments.
The Sun regrets the error.

She accused Gray, who has said he wants a study of ways to broaden the Maryland tax base, of favoring a general tax increase, adding that "voters will have a clear choice between my opponent and me." She added, "I will not vote for an increase in your income or sales taxes, or for a broadening of the sales tax base, or for any additional taxing authority for county governments."

Gray later fired back, saying the study he wants would find ways of redistributing the tax burden without raising taxes. He accused Schrader of "obfuscating" his position. "Her modus operandi is to attack because she hasn't really accomplished anything," he said.

"We need to stop digging deeper into people's pockets on property and income taxes. I do not want to raise taxes." He said he would like to eliminate the property tax, which he called "regressive."

Schrader, who momentarily choked with emotion several times as she read her speech before family and friends, talked about the role of women in politics.

"It was an honor to serve as the first woman senator in Howard County's 151-year history," she said. And despite years of work in the political trenches, "being a candidate was not a role I had envisioned for myself. I'd always felt more comfortable in the background, as a supporting player.

"I now realize that I have a duty to step up and lead. We need more women, more wives, and more moms in the state legislature," she said, where "we see the same tired solutions" offered each year.

Schrader, who was appointed in January to finish the last year of former state Sen. Martin G. Madden's term, is likely to face Gray in the November general election. Gray entered the race April 16.

Despite her status as an incumbent, Schrader could be the underdog in a newly redrawn District 13, designed to give Democrats the edge.

The district, which covers much of southeastern Howard and a sliver of western Anne Arundel County, counts Democrats as just over 50 percent of registered voters, while Republicans are about 31 percent. In addition, roughly 23 percent of the district is African-American, as is Gray. And the district covers most of the same area Gray has represented for 20 years on the County Council. Madden noted last night that the district lost western Howard precincts where he had done very well.

Still, Schrader has some advantages. She worked as Madden's chief legislative aide for his 11 years in the General Assembly, and she gained experience this year as the incumbent state senator.

She is quick to note that Madden, a progressive Republican who left office to pursue his business career, won election repeatedly in a district with three Democrats as delegates.

Her last name is also familiar to Howard voters because her husband, Dennis, was a county councilman from 1994 to 1998, and was the GOP nominee for Howard County executive in 1998.

Sandra Schrader suffered one notable embarrassment during this past General Assembly session, when she admittedly erred in co-sponsoring a bill that would have imposed an 18-hour waiting period on women seeking abortion.

Schrader, who favors keeping abortion legal under most circumstances, said she allowed herself to be listed as a co-sponsor without knowing the full provisions of the bill, which was called the Women's Health Protection Act. She later tried to remove her sponsorship and finally voted in committee to kill the bill.

Gray, trying to paint her as a conservative, said yesterday that the "clear choice" Schrader spoke of really involves "me, who believes in a women's right to choose," and Schrader, who "flip-flopped."

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