Crowded field for District 13 races

14 candidates seeking 4 seats in redrawn area

An additional state delegate

August 13, 2002|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

When Maryland's highest court gave Howard County a complete General Assembly district in late June, the county gained an extra state delegate - and the candidates came running.

The new District 13 has attracted the political equivalent of a Filene's basement sale crowd, with 14 candidates seeking four seats.

The main event is the contest for state senator. That decision won't come until the general election Nov. 5, although Republican incumbent Sandra B. Schrader, 48, must face Ed Patrick, 43, a gun rights advocate, in the primary Sept. 10. Democrat C. Vernon Gray, 63, a five-term county councilman, is unopposed.

On Sunday, Gray and Schrader marched in the annual Howard County Fair firefighters' parade - Gray in a blue shirt, waving as he walked, and Schrader wearing a brim in the scorching heat, handing out fingernail files to female spectators.

The 11 delegate candidates - six Republicans and five Democrats - range from conservative Republican Brandon Braunlich, 25, a graduate of the Rev. Jerry Fallwell's Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., to liberal Democratic Dels. Frank S. Turner, 55, and Shane Pendergrass, 52.

Turner said he was "amazed at the No. 1 topic" during his door-knocking efforts in River Hill: school redistricting, over which state legislators have no control. That western section of the new District 13 is virgin ground for Columbia's Democrats. The area was formerly part of the western county's Republican-dominated District 14.

Pendergrass said she wants to emphasize the $109 million the delegation helped get for schools over the last term, and her work on health issues such as a prescription plan for senior citizens and impeding the conversion of CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield to for-profit.

Republicans see the race as their chance to offer residents a choice, while Democrats are concentrating on their nearly 11,000-person numerical advantage among registered voters.

Three Democrats - Ada Bohorfoush, 39, of North Laurel; Neil Quinter, 40, of Kings Contrivance; and Pearl Atkinson-Stewart, 64, of Owen Brown - said they do not expect to beat incumbents Turner and Pendergrass. They are really competing for that third nomination on the party ticket, they said.

Quinter, a former assistant attorney general and congressional staff lawyer, has teamed with Turner and Gray. But Atkinson-Stewart, who ran in 1994 and lost, feels she may have an edge in east Columbia while Quinter and Bohorfoush, a bank appraiser and attorney, split the vote elsewhere.

Braunlich - who spent $12,000 on an abortive District 21 state Senate race before the court moved the boundary - feels his party's nomination "is a given. It's in the bag," he said, because three other Republican candidates have not been campaigning much.

Two other Republicans, Mary Beth Tung, 43, of Clarksville and Bob Adams, 33, of Long Reach, are working together to promote each other as they wave at motorists in the mornings and knock on doors each evening.

John Stafford, 61, another Republican, has been living outside the county, in a Laurel motel, since his mobile home park near Laurel Race Track closed in January, he said.

Stephen Washington, 42, of Owen Brown, also has hopes, though he said he, too, has not had much time to campaign.

Still, 86-year old Republican Charles H. Fiege received 1,071 votes four years ago, and even if he is not campaigning, anything could happen in a six-way race.

Schrader, who was appointed a state senator in January, said she has been working the newer, western parts of the district, too, with western county Republican County Councilman Allan H. Kittleman, whose district now overlaps Schrader's district.

Despite the primary opposition, Schrader said, "I'm sticking to my plan. I'm just trying to get my message out. I am the state senator, and I want to continue doing the service that has been wonderful for the past eight years under [former senator] Marty Madden." She is encouraged, she said, that many voters know her last name, remembering her husband Dennis' one term on the County Council, and his county executive's campaign in 1998.

Republican Senate candidate Ed Patrick of Owen Brown, a rocket scientist at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, is a gun rights advocate who feels Schrader is too much in the mold of former senator Martin G. Madden, whom she replaced in January.

"The idea that it's necessary to know who has firearms - I'm vehemently opposed to that," he said. Patrick, whose personal e-mail address is the numerical measurements of a Warsaw pact bullet, said he has not had time to campaign.

Quinter said he has been surprised, as he spends mornings waving at motorists, to find out "how nice people are. I was really surprised that most people wave back. It makes me smile."

Bohorfoush, like several other Democrats, talks about schools and the importance of funding the Thornton Commission education reforms. Traffic congestion comes up the most in talks with voters, she said, after schools.

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