Six in GOP set sights on seat in new district

Newly created District 9B has about 20,000 voters

South Carroll

Election 2002

August 25, 2002|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

For the first time, South Carroll has a seat in the state legislature, and six Republicans are vying to represent the county's fastest-growing region, one beset by water shortages, crowded schools and congested roads.

On Sept. 10, the 12,000 Republicans registered in District 9B will pare that field to one GOP candidate.

The Democrats have a choice of two: Kenneth Holniker or Anita Lombardi Riley.

Redistricting created District 9B with about 20,000 registered voters, who live in Eldersburg, Sykesville, Gamber, Marriottsville, Woodbine and many smaller neighborhoods.

Among the Republican candidates, two have political experience, one as a former county commissioner, another as president of the county school board. Two others have lifelong business ties to the area and one of those serves on the county's Republican Central Committee. Of the remaining two, one is an attorney and the other is a computer systems analyst.

The candidates range in age from 33 to 77, and all have deep roots in the county's most populated and underrepresented area. They are going door-to-door, posting campaign signs and pushing Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. for governor.

"It takes more effort to get your message out because people are flooded with information," said Larry Helminiak, 62, a businessman who founded Carroll Insulation in 1970 and employs 60 people there. "If I had one opponent, I could state our differences. But with six of us, everybody believes something of what the other person does. And, there is no incumbent to criticize."

Richard T. Yates, 77, who took the most votes in the 1994 Republican primary for county commissioner, prefers a crowd.

"You don't need as many votes to win, especially if there is a low turnout," said Yates, a retired civil servant who lost his second bid for commissioner four years ago.

"I would go to Annapolis not with a chip on my shoulder to fight the Democrats, but to work for the people here and get something done," Yates said. "You have to learn to work with the majority party."

All six candidates have strong allegiances to this oddly drawn district bordered by Baltimore and Howard counties. The district includes one town - Sykesville - that often is asked to annex nearby neighborhoods. Gov. Parris N. Glendening carved 9B out of an area state planners would call the antithesis of Smart Growth, the governor's initiative to direct development to existing communities.

"This seat gives voice to the hopes and desires of South Carroll," said Michael D. Zimmer, 38, a lawyer who often waves his signs at the intersection of Routes 26 and 32. "I see this as a historic opportunity to represent folks who have long felt underrepresented."

Rather than run for a second term on the Carroll County Board of Education, Susan W. Krebs, 42, chose the delegate's race. The new seat, she says, is "a unique opportunity to take my expertise in education to Annapolis."

"South Carroll has not had adequate representation, and our area is suffering with inadequate funding for schools, roads and other facilities," Krebs said. "Now we can do something in Annapolis. People here know the problems and they want results."

Helminiak said he is "in tune with Carroll County's personality and conservatism" and that his biggest asset is his business ability.

"I want people to know I am going to be there watching out for their pocketbooks," he said.

Robert L. Tabler Jr., a real estate broker, has seen unprecedented growth in his 66 years, all spent in South Carroll.

"Eldersburg has become a Grand Central Station," Tabler said. "We have to do something about the roads and schools. We can all point to the problems here. Finding the answers is harder."

As a delegate, Tabler said, he would battle for his constituency. "I have things that I believe in but I am not going there to represent myself," he said.

The candidates are primarily conservative, for business and property rights, and against gun control and abortion rights. They all want to get a handle on the building boom that has tripled South Carroll's population during the past 20 years and created water shortages, congestion on roads and in schools, and stress for the volunteer fire company.

"People here are tired of crowded classrooms and schools without air conditioning," said Krebs. "Growth has outstripped infrastructure. If we had the schools and roads, people would not mind growth."

Yates, who won his commissioner seat in 1994 as a champion of moderate growth, said he would work to bring state money to Carroll.

All of them solidly back Ehrlich's candidacy for governor.

"We have to hold back the tide of liberalism that envelops every corner of state government, whether it is taxes or gun control," said Michael R. Guerin, 33, who wants "to carry the banner of the Republican Party to Annapolis."

In his door-to-door campaign, Zimmer said he has found the district to be politically diverse.

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