Two candidates for council differ in approaches


July 18, 2002|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Clutching a clipboard and campaign handouts, with a water bottle on her hip, Mary Kay Sigaty moved alone among the quiet homes on Misty Arch Court in west Columbia last weekend, searching for Democrats likely to vote in the Sept. 10 primary election for the Howard County Council.

"I prefer to be alone. One on one," the 52-year-old veteran community volunteer said about her door-knocking forays in the District 4 campaign.

Not so Ken Ulman, her ambitious, 28-year old rival for the Democratic council nomination.

This week, Ulman, his wife, Jaki, their baby Madeline, another toddler and four supporters in campaign T-shirts trolled for votes along Cardinal Lane in Clemens Crossing.

FOR THE RECORD - A map in yesterday's Howard County edition of The Sun did not show the correct boundaries for Howard County Council District 4. The map below shows the correct boundaries for District 4. The Sun regrets the error.

The two-stroller-equipped group included Ken Ulman's former high school vice principal, a Columbia Association worker, a former student intern for Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley and a Baltimore County prosecutor.

"I like it. It makes me feel good. I like looking back and seeing my blue T-shirts," Ulman said about his team approach to campaigning.

In addition to support from his family, the young lawyer also has backing from Councilman Guy J. Guzzone, a North Laurel-Savage Democrat.

Sigaty counters that with strong support from retiring two-term council member Mary C. Lorsung, a Democrat who is leaving the District 4 seat that Sigaty and Ulman seek.

At stake are the relatively few Democratic votes needed to win in this traditionally Democrat-dominated district. Both candidates expect fewer than 5,000 of the 16,222 registered Democrats in the district to vote.

In 1994, the last year Democrats fought over the nomination, Lorsung won with 2,388 votes - 221 votes over her rival, James B. Kraft.

A low turnout could help Sigaty use shoe leather to counteract Ulman's expected huge financial advantage, though preprimary campaign finance reports are not due until the middle of next month.

So, every vote counts, and Sigaty and Ulman are not wasting time on people who cannot assist them over that first big election hurdle.

That could help the sole Republican candidate, Joan Lancos, 48, former county Planning Board chairwoman, who is free to court Democrats and Republicans. "I'm not going to win unless I ask Democrats for their vote. I don't see myself as partisan, but as someone who has served the community for a long time," she said.

Like Sigaty, Lancos has years of experience as a school advocate and an activist in Columbia. "In many ways, I'm better known than I thought I was," Lancos said, recounting how one voter she encountered remembered her work on a neighborhood pond issue years ago.

All three candidates stress their support of core Howard County issues - stronger schools, eliminating education achievement gaps, preserving older neighborhoods and strong public safety services.

While Sigaty is quick to tell voters about her years of experience in the community, especially working on difficult school equity and redistricting issues, Ulman points to his 13-month-old daughter and talks about his years growing up in Columbia, his endorsement by the county teachers union and his political experience in the 1996 Bill Clinton presidential campaign and in Annapolis, where he worked for Gov. Parris N. Glendening and Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.

Ulman and Sigaty have found encouragement in their door-knocking forays.

Peter Tocco, 48, who lives in the 6000 block of Misty Arch Run in Hawthorne, Hickory Ridge, told Sigaty he did not like Ulman's "feel-good flier. It doesn't say what [he's] for."

He felt differently about Sigaty. "I think you're an issues person," he said to her.

The brochure that Ulman is distributing is a polished, color collage of the candidate's years growing up in Columbia, with Glendening and Townsend quotes and photos. There are two large shots of Ulman and his baby daughter, and one of the Ulman family.

Elsewhere on the block, Sigaty advised Anne and John Schmidt to check Columbia Association policies on a fence that a new neighbor is proposing, and she mentioned her role in the recent high school redistricting process. She knew the family that sold the Schmidts their home nearly four years ago, she said - the kind of knowledge that comes from years of neighborhood activism.

To Joe Rayes, 55, a 23-year resident, she talked about transportation problems and the need to begin thinking more about the expanding county senior population.

Ulman is finding fans on the campaign trail, too.

He recruited at least one volunteer, got permission for several lawn signs for later in the campaign, and, with help from his campaign entourage, found a link with virtually every voter with whom he spoke.

Ulman said he wants to inject a more progressive, active style to solving Howard County's problems. He wants more police patrols, a more innovative school system and more state help for a quickly urbanizing county, he said.

Bill Davis, 78, who lives on the quiet, leafy cul-de-sac called Snuffbox Terrace, was impressed with the Ulman road show.

"It's good to see a new face. I like young people," he said, responding to Ulman's direct pitch for his vote.

"You got it," Davis assured him.

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